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Author Topic: Setting up a biology lab, need suggestions for supplies  (Read 1015 times)

Tipitaka

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Setting up a biology lab, need suggestions for supplies
« on: April 23, 2014, 09:05:43 pm »

I'm looking for an inexpensive microscope capable of viewing bacteria and fungi for amateur microbiology. I study soil restoration in in my spare time; and there's only so much you can learn by color, scent, ph, percentage of organic matter, and number of insects. A look at exactly which things are living in there would lend a great degree of specificity to my current research. Currently, I can sniff soil to tell if fungus or Lacto-fermenting bacteria are there, but that entails a certain risk of lung infection. (Never sniff ground that has had pig poo in or on it, may give yourself a number of lethal pathogens.) That's where a microscope comes in. But I'm not an institution, so it needs to be inexpensive. Any suggestions?

I also need petri dishes, agar, an autoclave (instructions for home-built is okay), slides, positive and negative stains, etc...

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Silver

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Re: Setting up a biology lab, need suggestions for supplies
« Reply #1 on: April 23, 2014, 09:34:58 pm »

USB microscopes are inexpensive and will serve your purpose.  You can get decent rebuilt optical microscopes on eBay, but dollar for dollar its hard to beat the new USB mikes.  Autoclave is a pressure cooker operated to give saturated steam at 15 PSI (250 F) for 15 minutes.  Be sure to vent the air; don't close the valve until nothing but steam is coming out, and start timing once the pressure builds to 15 PSI, not before.  Don't leave the room, pressure vessels can be dangerous.  If it stops burping steam and the pressure rises, shut off the heat.

Agar is cheap if you buy the powder and mix it with sterile water (prepped in your autoclave, of course, but it takes a long time to heat a volume of water to 250 F.  Prep only as much as you need.)  There are inexpensive labels that change color after 5-15 minutes at 250 F. 

Sterile technique is as much art and craftsmanship as science; always use one agar plate with nothing added as a control.  Be ready to repeat experiments; even if you pour dozens of clean plates, sooner or later you'll get a batch with a contaminant.

Stains aren't expensive and I don't know of any easy substitutes.

Amazon is your friend.

Good luck!
« Last Edit: April 23, 2014, 09:45:40 pm by Silver »
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Tipitaka

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Re: Setting up a biology lab, need suggestions for supplies
« Reply #2 on: April 24, 2014, 01:19:08 am »

USB microscopes are inexpensive and will serve your purpose.  You can get decent rebuilt optical microscopes on eBay, but dollar for dollar its hard to beat the new USB mikes.  Autoclave is a pressure cooker operated to give saturated steam at 15 PSI (250 F) for 15 minutes.  Be sure to vent the air; don't close the valve until nothing but steam is coming out, and start timing once the pressure builds to 15 PSI, not before.  Don't leave the room, pressure vessels can be dangerous.  If it stops burping steam and the pressure rises, shut off the heat.

Agar is cheap if you buy the powder and mix it with sterile water (prepped in your autoclave, of course, but it takes a long time to heat a volume of water to 250 F.  Prep only as much as you need.)  There are inexpensive labels that change color after 5-15 minutes at 250 F. 

Sterile technique is as much art and craftsmanship as science; always use one agar plate with nothing added as a control.  Be ready to repeat experiments; even if you pour dozens of clean plates, sooner or later you'll get a batch with a contaminant.

Stains aren't expensive and I don't know of any easy substitutes.

Amazon is your friend.

Good luck!

"sooner or later you'll get a batch with a contaminant."

Sooner rather than later. I sterilized everything with steam for 2 hours or so... and a presumably air-borne blue-ish fungus colonized my 4 mushroom pods before the innoculant had a chance to. Ruined my day when I pulled one out to have a look and it was full of white stuff with blue-green spores. The mushroom I was trying to grow has white spores and huge fruiting bodies, so I know it's not that. I'd heard that the one I'm growing is slow but can conquer substrate from other fungi, so I'm waiting to see what happens rather than drying it out and burning it. If I do end up having to burn it, I'll have to be careful when opening the bags not to breathe any in... Penicillium molds cause asthma-like symptoms and allergic reactions in many people.
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