Monday, July 19, 2010

Taking a microscope in the field

"What the What?!!" you might be saying in response to the title of this post, but, no, really, I mean it.

And since I'm just back from 7 weeks in the field, a funeral, a little bit of personal travel, and trying to fit laundry in somewhere, a field related post seems to appropriate.

 Inspired by the Wild Heerbrugg Field Cover for the M5 and M11 microscopes, of which I can't find a single decent picture online, I put together a package to bring a newer, less complicated, but still decent Wild M3 stereo microscpe into less than lab conditions. Now, that could be a classroom, a fossil ID day, or a remote field site. At the recommendation of my friend Mike, and scope guy at Natural History Studio, I picked the M3 based on its minimum number of moving parts, ability to seal it up against dirt and debris, and small size.  While many different microscopes could be used, the choice of a Wild is a no-brainer, they are simply the best. Instead of the nifty hood, I opted for a slightly more protective and far larger Pelican hard case. The sacrifice of space allows room for all sorts of accessories and tools, including attachments like the photoport pictured at left, as well as airscribes, illumination, pinvises, etc. Since the two layers of foam lining allow the container to be customized as needed, the liners can even exchanged and outfitted for different projects.

For instance, one set could be cut out for the scope, photoport, camera, adapters, and maybe even a computer or netbook for microphotography during collections visits. Another option would be to add a lightweight and quiet air compressor to your kit, coil up some hose, scribes, and a regulator and stow those in the Pelican case for a self contained portable microprep workstation.

For some time I pondered the best way to light a scope in the middle of nowhere without a large power source, and after staring at a spare ringlight in the bottom of one of my crap drawers for a while, the idea to use a flashlight hit me.  I went to the hardware store and picked up a 100 lumen LED flashlight that runs on 4 AA batteries. The light at the focal plane can be focused by positioning the lightsource at a proper distance from the end of the fiber optic cable. To do this I drilled out a dowel rod to function as an adapter between the two, which creates a somewhat bright field in the case of intense ambient light (sunlight/interior), and sufficient lighting during dim conditions. This setup proved invaluable this field season during a period of limited time available for ID and cataloging before the trip back home.

1 comment:

Jimfavreur said...

Its incredible what you can do with a microscope. It is like peering into another world when you use a microscope. Thanks again for sharing.