Hobby Focus: Biology

Hobby: Biology

Cost: $0 to very expensive

Time required: Completely up to you

I spent so much of my life working with electronics and computers that I didn’t really think much about the natural world around me. About six years ago, I started taking university classes with the hope of getting a degree in microbiology. It didn’t work out, but after looking through a microscope in one of the labs and seeing things swirling and dancing around in a drop of water, I was hooked.

You don’t even need a microscope to examine and enjoy the world around you. My favourite example to support this is the humble leaf. Here’s a leaf from an office building near my house:

Office Building LeafAnd here’s one from the philodendron plant in the living room:

Philodendron LeafLook at the shape, the colours, and the structure. Think of all the processes that need to work perfectly to keep these leaves alive – water has to move around inside, the little chloroplasts inside the cells need to convert sunlight and carbon dioxide into sugar, wastes have to be expelled from the cells… all kinds of things are going on. One of the leaves happens to have hairs around it. Why does it need hairs? Why doesn’t the other leaf have hairs on it? Why are leaves from different plants different colours and shapes? Why do different trees have different kinds of bark?

And that’s just looking at a leaf with your eye – no microscopes or magnifying glasses needed!

Some people really like bird watching. Set up a little bird feeder or bird bath where you can easily see it and watch the different birds find it and argue about who gets to eat.

Moths and butterflies can be beautiful to look at, and getting a good picture of one is a treat.

Go down to a creek or slow-moving river and use a clear jar to get a bunch of water. Watch the tiny little animals in there go bumbling about their daily lives.

If you have a magnifying glass, then a whole new world opens up. Watch ants, spiders, or other bugs as they go about their business. The little critters in the creek water jar change from tiny little dots to things with legs or tails or weird mouth parts.

If you have a microscope – even at 30x to 100x, things become amazing. If you’re interested in cells, do an online search to see how to properly look at onion cells (if you’re interested in plant cells) or cheek cells (if you’re interested in animal cells). You can always take a spoonful of dirt from one of your houseplants (or from outside), put it in water, let it sit overnight, and see if you can catch anything wandering around:

Even in the middle of a city, there is so much vibrant natural life around. From little protists living in the dirt, to the different kinds of dogs and cats, to the largest tree on the street, there’s life everywhere that’s just waiting to be explored!

Stay safe.

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