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MicroZoo

24 June 2012

Heather Braun, weekend naturalist at the Anita G. Leight Estuary Center opened our eyes to the amazing variety of life in a drop of water. After seeing drawings of phytoplankton and zooplantkon on paper, we went outside where water was collected in four water tanks. From there she showed us how to collect water samples that we would then take inside and view under the microscope.

Once each child had a chance to collect water sample and observe some plankton with the naked eye, we took a sample inside and she handed out drops on small slides. Ooh! Aah! we heard as each child saw his or her sample under the microscope – mostly phytoplankton but at least one child got a specimen of zooplankton as well. After this round, Miss Heather gave us drops from a sample someone had collected earlier. It was more dense with plankton. Most people’s water drops contained several zooplankton that would rush around the water drop – lucky for us, it could not leave the drop so it was always within view of the microscope. Under one microscope we could actually see a zooplankton in the process of eating a phytoplankton and Miss Heather pointed out the digestive tract of the zooplankton.

Of all the questions that came up, there was only one that Miss Heather could not answer. While there are zooplankton that eat only other zooplankton, some that eat only phytoplanton and some that eat both, K wanted to know: “Do plant-eating zooplankton eat all phytoplankton or are they picky about which ones they will eat?”

That, Miss Heather said, is a complicated question. We were wearing our library T-shirts, so she suggested that we look up books on plankton there.

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