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Great little scientists

“Guardiões da Natureza” unveil the microscopic world secrets in EcoAventura

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes and 25 seconds

© Helder Berenguer

Each day is a new opportunity to observe the world that surrounds us and admire its plants and animals. But are we truly aware of the diversity of species with different origins that inhabit our park? And what might be hiding in the microscopic world? 

In the wildest stand of EcoAventura, from 3 to 5 of June, the Guardiões da Natureza” (Nature’s Guardians) did a recruitment action for some helpers! The bravest ones were challenged to unveil what doesn’t meet the eye while participating in the activity O Mundo ao Microscópio (The world under the Microscope). The 1st step was preparing the material and create an open-air lab: beakers, sieves, funnels, tongs, and even a microscope. Everything that our helpers would need to become true scientists, to analyse the greatest variety of elements, sand, dead leaves, feathers, flowers, or even their own clothes. 

It's time to put our hands to work! We started by sieving the sand, from which some plastic fragments appeared. Truly outraged with this discovery, our Guardians decided to investigate a little deeper. Using a funnel and filter paper, they filtered the sand, previously dissolved in water, and used the microscope to analyse what was left. Our little scientists’ nightmare became true, they found microplastics and synthetic fibers. And where do these little fragments and particles come from? What can we do to ease the accumulation of these residual particles in the sea and beaches? When all these questions were finally debated, there were still things to analyse. 

A dead leaf appears to be lacking life, nevertheless, our helpers proved it wrong! Using the microscope they were able to observe tiny white fungi who decompose organic components. And the clothes were another big surprise, that which seemed to be so smooth and homogeneous, in reality, is actually a cluster of fibers that cross each other and create patterns with little interstices. 

But think twice if you thought that our activities were finished here. For the most adventurous ones, there was yet another challenge, Bingo da Natureza” (Nature’ Bingo). In this game, our helpers were challenged to go for a walk through the park as they discovered the species drawn in their cards. When they had found every creature “Bingo!”.

We had 3 wonderful days full of learning and fun in which the new little Nature’s guardians were able to learn more about biodiversity and reveal some secrets of the microscopic world. 

Guardiões da Natureza is part of the Plantar o Futuro project and it was carried out in partnership with Núcleo de Estudantes de Biologia - AAUAv. It has the support of Aveiro’s City Hall and IPDJ - Instituto Português do Desporto e Juventude I.P..

Cátia Lima