Sunday, April 17, 2016

Some thoughts and shots

God's Own Worm

Phyllodoce violacea, God's Own Worm. 

Collected on the reef crest at Tangke Beach, Saipan by NMC students on a reef lab.


Gemma gemma, an invasive clam, at Crab Cove, Alameda.  These are the intermediate hosts of parasites of the (also invasive) Green Crabs.  These are apparently full grown.  A long windrow along the beach at Crab Cove on

El Nino brought them North

The large Sea Hare Aplysia californica was widely reported from California last summer.  They are not ordinarily present in Northern California, but often seen in Southern California, in particular at Coal Oil Point, north of Isla Vista.  Steinbeck reported on a year earlier in the 20th Century when they were seen in Monterey Bay and British Columbia.  They were seen in Tide Pools in Pacific Grove in 2015.

In the press in Alameda, they were reported as "Purple Blobs."   These sea hare were photographed at the boathouse near Encinal High School on Alameda, along with the egg mass, below, looking like spaghetti. 

In Chuuk, we ate egg masses of other large ophistobranchs, though I cannot attest to the safety of these. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Cell Phone Macro Antics, Revisited

For this post I have  a loupe with two different powers.  This is a low cost model, but has decent glass optics.  A single ended loupe of 10X to 20X would be the Bausch and Lomb Coddington (2 element) or Hastings Triplet (3 elements). 

In these photos, the loupe unit is tacked onto the phone with "blue tac" (Loctite Fun-Tak).

In the first photo, the lens is swung out, so it is lined up with the camera lens.

In the second photo the loupe lens is swug away, exposing the camera lens, so to be able to shoot normally.

This is the stuff: Loctite Fun-Tak.

Some shots with various loupes

Without loupe
Bouganvilla: a small shift in focus plane makes a big difference.

Very small flower

A spittle bug in California

On a lemon leaf in CA


  1. when shooting, shoot in bursts, and move the camera in and out a little, to change the plane of focus.  
  2. It is best to shoot in bright sunlight.  I still haven't figured out how to use the onboard flash with this method.  Must use either a diffuser or some kind of minature slave flash. 


I found a classic VideoFlex.  As originally built, the VideoFlex gooseneck microscope and macro camera was a low resolution solution to display on a TV.  This the one I got on Ebay for about 30.00.  I found it invaluable in the classroom for displaying demos.  My class watched a Conus striatus attack and kill a blenny in an 8" culture dish, a definite highlight.

But the most interesting trick was the use of the VideoFlex as an Aquarium microscope.  I had made some miniature aquaria of various sizes, including my favorite 2"wide X 2" long X 8" high, of 1/8" plate glass.  This was a perfect size to empty a partly full 1 gallon ziploc bag of water (sea water, of course) and whatever specimens  I had collected.  These small aquaria were made by my predecessor instructors at Northern Marianas College to hold fish for photography.  I found them useful for another reason.

On the sand in shallow water on Saipan are patches of a brown surface film.  Curious, I used the ziploc bag like a scraper, and carefully scraped off a good amount of the surface film, as thinly as possible so as to avoid collecting deeper sand; the bag was filled the rest of the way with seawater.  Usually, this about 2-1/2 or 3" deep worth of sand in the aquarium, which also held most of the water that I collected with it.

It took a little while for the organisms that had made up the surface layer---the epifauna, I suppose---to start reorganizing themselves in some manner.  When the VideoFlex camera was placed flat on the surface of the aquarium, exactly along the surface line of the sand, one could watch this reorganization happen, as worms started to burrow, and, more interestingly, perhaps, dinoflagellates actually were resolved as they crawled up the glass into the water column above the sand.  Fortuitously---depending on one's point of view---the dinoflagellates I observed were Prorocentrum, which is toxic.  The resolution wasn't great.  It occurs to me that other cameras may be even more fit for this purpose; however, the VideoFlex's lens is the exact right focal length to focus on the inside surface of the glass, when the face of the lens if flush with the outside surface of the 1/8" glass.  Awesome form meiofauna/infauna studies at the macro level.

Along with the 35.00 used (in good condition) VideoFlex came two power supplies,  and an adaptor for a certain size of microscope eyepiece often used on stereomicroscopes.

I have attached the adaptor to the phone, making it much easier to line up for shots.  I have not tried this adaptor on my compound scope, whose eyepiece is smaller in diameter.

This is a shot of a "worm" Fe found in the water residue on the back of the kitchen sink, using the iPhone camera through a stereomicroscope, using the collar tacked onto the case of the phone:


All in all, the cell phone camera has started to get interesting as a serious tool. 

UPDATE: This system has its limits, esp. with regard to distortion.



  These photos show spherical aberation.   Should have paid better attention in Optics Class: should be able to construct a multiple element system with a few elements from Edmund Optical, or perhaps find an element to attach to one of these. 

Maybe spacing of lens from camera?  

Lichen.  I assume this is a reproductive structure.



Anyway, these shots still are interesting. 

Elysium, a very small flower.  


















An unfufilled Wedding Gift and a remarkable reproductive strategy

We owe my Paternal Cousine, Jennifer, and her husband Emmanuel a gift that has been a long time in the coming: a mantel piece glass sponge, the Venus Flower Basket, Euplectella sp.  I promised them in a letter, those many years ago, that I would send them one of these when I found one.  I hope that this post will not win their forgiveness, but be a sign of my sincerity.  Nor do I bear this as a burden of guilt, but that is just because I do not work that way.

Skeleton of the Venus Flower Basket, Euplectella sp.
In my letter, I told Jenny and Emmanuel of the symbolism that is famously honored in Japan, of a pair of shrimp that live within this exquisitely intricate and beautiful glass prison.   For this sponge is, I am led to believe, sometimes given as a wedding gift in Japan. 

Here is a description of Euplectella sp. by Sir Charles Wyville-Thomson,  chief scientist of the Challenger Expedition, 1873-76. 

This other vase-shaped animal, half glass & half sponge is not unknown in England, but has never before been obtained elsewhere, than off the Phillipine Islands. From their great beauty and rarity they were, on their first appearance, sold in England for £50 apiece, as chimney ornaments.

 The intricate structure of a glass sponge, made of fused Siliceous spicules.  I found a web page for amateur microscopists about Searching for Spicules.

Spongicola venustus  is a shrimp with a symbiotic relationship with Euplectella spp. 

The Love Story

In the following web page is explained that the shrimp's reproductive strategy is rational withing the sparse ecosystem of the deep sea: 

The Shrimp: Spongicola venustus 

 Saito and Komai had this to say of the group of shrimps to which this species belongs:
The symbiont spongicolid shrimps are generally characterized by a reduced armature of the body and appendages and by a rather depressed body form, representing a typical pattern of adaptation to a life in a confined space within the host animal (Bruce 1976). Furthermore, some of them show a trend toward reduction of the gills and exopods on maxillipeds

The drawing as well as the description are from
Saito, T. and Komai, T., 2008. A review of species of the genera Spongicola de Haan, 1844 and Paraspongicola de Saint Laurent & Cleva, 1981 (Crustacea, Decapoda, Stenopodidea, Spongicolidae). ZOOSYSTEMA-PARIS-, 30(1), p.87.

A remarkable series of images of the shrimp and the host sponge is found, in Korean, at the following site: .

The following image is taken from this site.

And here's the lid: