In Onward: Searching for Life in Iceland’s Frigid Fissures, National Geographic grantee and biology researcher Jónína Ólafsdóttir goes diving in search of tiny arthropods in the underwater volcanic fissures of Iceland’s Thingvellir National Park. She is joined by NatGeo multimedia journalists Spencer Millsap and Dan Stone.
“When I started doing this research, I was amazed that no one had ever done it before,” she said one morning earlier this week as we drove to her favorite dive site. Iceland has a lot of research questions related to biology and geology that have never been answered, let alone even asked. “Iceland is a really great place for a scientist with an explorer’s heart,” she says…
Ecologists are often asked why they might study one particular animal, especially a small one that has little impact on humans. Jónína’s answer goes like this: humanity might never be dependent on microscopic arthropods but understanding how animals work together, how they depend on each other holds lots more clues about an area’s environmental history—and its future. At the top of the world, seeing how species change and adapt may indicate what happens as the climate changes around the world.
Read more about Ólafsdóttir's research at National Geographic, and check out more scuba diving videos in the archives.
Via ucresearch, Build Your Own Lego Microscope, and read below to find out why building a piece of DIY science equipment can be so beneficial to learning.
LegoScope is a DIY microscope made out of legos, lenses and a few custom-made pieces. The UCSF grad students behind the project spoke with Synapse about the ways in which LegoScope can demystify microscopy and science education:
How can LegoScope help students learn?
Reid Williams: It’s not what you’re teaching, but how are you teaching. What’s really interesting for us, and what we’ve heard from teachers, is that there’s an advantage in a very hands-on, process-oriented fashion. The underlying need that we’re working towards is learning something by putting together a tool rather than watching someone lecture.
If you are teaching the fifth to eighth grades, LegoScope can help incorporate a more intuitive feel for optics, or just for building and systems-thinking in general. Students would take away more than microscopy and optics, but also the more intangible aspects, like an intuitive understanding of how light behaves. It can be a very powerful exercise.
Harrison Liu: A microscope is seen almost like a “black box,” yet we can take it apart and see how it works with LegoScope. When you build something, then you can take ownership of it, you really learn it well. You have to learn what each part does. It’s different from normal teaching.
Watch this immune system defending T cell attacking a cancer cell. Alex Ritter, a PhD student at Cambridge, shot this “using an Andor Revolution spinning disk system with an Olympus microscope.” The T cell, about one-tenth the width of a human hair, is being shown at 92 times its actual speed.
Alex’s Lab professor, Gillian Griffiths:
"Cytotoxic T cells are very precise and efficient killers. They are able to destroy infected or cancerous cells, without destroying healthy cells surrounding them… By understanding how this works, we can develop ways to control killer cells. This will allow us to find ways to improve cancer therapies, and ameliorate autoimmune diseases caused when killer cells run amok and attack healthy cells in our bodies."