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Step Into Their Stories...

Glass Animals 🔬

by Megan McOsker, Semester Science Teacher

When Teal and I dipped a plankton net into Montsweag Brook this November, we weren’t sure what we would find. Teal had chosen to study plankton for their final project in our Natural History and Ecology class but had never done a plankton tow before and I had never sampled the waters off Chewonki Neck in the late autumn.

Carefully, Teal lowered the net into the saltwater off the Oxbow dock to capture a sample. We washed the nets into collection bottles and returned to the science classroom, where we placed a few drops beneath a microscope.

We scanned  the slide for signs of life.  At first there were some odd bits of organic debris. Then… wow!  Zooming zooplankton flitted across our view. They were far too quick to identify. We started to focus on the phytoplankton. Teal had a strong interest in harmful phytoplankton, and we were able to identify a few Pseudonitchia.  A curious shape appeared in Teal’s eyepiece. Its long thin, rectangular cells were arranged in a radiating pattern like a star or snowflake. A diatom! A Thalassionema nitzschiodes, more specifically. These phytoplankton have cell walls made of translucent opaline silica – literally houses made of glass. Astonishing!

Teal was over the moon with their discovery. No wonder Chewonki is so out-of-this-world. We’re surrounded by stars!

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