Enjoy an exploration
of the natural world as a micro-terrarium: M. Crichton &
R. Preston. Micro. HarperCollins, 2011.
organisms in our world are varied in form, complexity, and diversity.
During the course of the semester we will be looking at how
this diversity meets the needs of organisms for nutrient procurement,
gas exchange, excretion, and reproduction You will explore the unique relationships between the countless unseen living organisms that share our environment. This project will
allow you to observe the diversity of life in a dynamic environment.
of this assignment is to help you.
1) Learn to read and use scientific articles.
2) Learn how ecosystems are studied.
on Earth is diverse and ubiquitous, filling large and small
niches but limited by temperature, water, and energy resources.
Individual organisms live in a community where they are competing
for space and resources. The complexity of these communities
can vary depending on location. Warm wet environments generally
have greater species diversity than cold or dry environments.
pool of water, which forms after a rainon
a previously dry sidewalk will in a short time flourish with
many tiny organisms. The bark on a tree harbors many microorganisms
which are usually dormant when the bark is dry. When wetted
these organisms come to life but are only visible with the microscope-aided
eye. In ponds, organism are stratified at different levels in
the water—all occupying different niches. You can go anywhere
in the environment, collect organic material, give it moisture
and nutrients and watch the many small organisms grow and compete
among themselves for resources.
Background section of your final paper should be a review of
literature on some aspect of aquatic ecosystems. (Click
on this link for possible topics.)
You're not the only people looking at aquatic microcosms
in groups of two students. Each group will have their own MicroAquarium to study
an aquatic microecosystem. Water samples
Setting up your MicroAquarium In the lab will be an assortment of waters collected
from various sources that can be used in your MicroAquarium.
You can also collect your own material. Let your instructor
know if you want to do the latter. Record the source of material
used in your aquarium.
2. Place one of the provided colored dots on the left hand side
edge and write your initials on the dot.
3. A thin layer of sediment (0–5 mm) resting in the bottom of an upright
MicroAquarium provides food and habitat for many invertebrates.
A coffee stirrer can be used to position substrates in the bottom.
Excessive solid matter can reduce visibility into the microcosm
4.Using a micropipette, extract water from one of
the containers on the lab bench or from the water you collected.
enough water from the bottom of the container
to fill the MicroAquarium tank about 1/3 full.
the next 1/3 of water for your tank from the middle.
the rest of your tank with water from the surface.
5. Decorate it with some plant or other objects provided.
6.Replenish evaporative water loss as needed (ca. every 10
days) with distilled water.
Food will be added by the instructor at a later date.
Observing the contents of your McroAquarium You
can observe the contents of the MicroAquarium with a dissecting
(stereo) microscope, compound upright microscope, or inverted
compound microscope. Contents are best viewed through an inverted
1.Remove the stand and lid from the MicroAquarium tank.
2.Gently lay the tank on the microscope stage with the open
end away from you. Capillary action will keep the water in.
When using the compound scope you can place it in the slide
holder and move the tank with the appropriate knobs. On the
dissecting scope lay the tank flat and manipulate it with your
Fly larvae (at arrows) crawled out of the mud on day 20
in this aquarium..
Things to look for and record
The tank will have living organisms and various
forms of debris. You are to observe the living organisms
1. Stationary vs. moving organisms.
2. If moving, a description of motion.
3. Single celled vs. multicellular organisms
4. Chlorophyll green vs. non-green organisms.
5. Habitat preference of the different organisms – bottom,
middle or top
6. For each organism record:
a.Identify it if possible or carefully
sketch it so you can recognize it in subsequent observations.
From BIOL 215: A tardigrade seen in a microaquarium. These animals are called water bears because of their lumbering gait. & another student's video.
b.Record the number observed.
7. pH changes.
8.Did you replace evaporated water?
9. When and what food was added.
Observing your MicroAquarium weekly You are to come and observe your MicroAquarium
at least once a week over the next nine weeks.
Make some of the following observations.
1.What changes have occurred from the last observation?
2.Have the numbers of each organism increased, decreased
or stayed about the same?
3.Are there dead organisms in the bottom layer of the tank?
means fast in Hawaiian. A wiki log is a fast way to take
notes and develop your project.
Your Weekly Log Your wiki
log is an open notebook of your activities while
working on this project. This will provide your data and notes
for your final report.
You should add to your log at least once each week – each
week's entry should appear before Monday of the following week.
1.Things you should include
a.The name of the water source
you used including other objects you might have added.
you make each week from your MicroAquarium.
organisms: A minimum of four images are to be included. All
images should be yours. NO IMAGES FROM THE WEB or copied from
other sources. For each image, cite a source for its identification.
for information on the web include URLs you found useful and
what information was pertinent to your project.
A list of
the organisms found in your MicroAquarium, numbers observed,
date when first observed and date when last observed.
2.Other pertinent comments, questions, or images you want
to add are up to you.
3.Make sure you compose complete sentences with correct spelling
and grammar because your instructor will read this information.