The Open Lab showcases unusual creatures

Do you ever wonder what creatures live beneath the leaf litter or what micro-organisms are swimming in your stream? Well, now you can find out at the Open Lab.

The Open Lab is a pop-up laboratory that allows the public to examine live specimens under microscopic lenses. Both children and adults rummaged through soil and leaf litter to find live invertebrates. Once the participants found an organism, they viewed it under a microscope and identified the organism with the help of scientists

“It’s a great learning experience for everyone. The children are quick to learn how to use the microscope,” said DOC Science and Capability Honorary Ranger Dr. Karin Mahlfeld.

Run by a few of DOC’s Science and Capability Volunteers, the Open Lab is a mobile laboratory that is free for the public. A portion of the equipment, including microscopes and laptops, were kindly loaned to the Open Lab from The Clinic, a community-led learning initiative at Ngaio School. The Open Lab aims to increase general awareness of invertebrates and provide an educational opportunity for the public.

The Open Lab made one of its first appearances at Zealandia on Saturday 18 July. Over 50 participants showed up to utilize the lab’s equipment.

“The children are really fascinated to see what’s out there on a microscopic level,” said Zealandia Education Ranger Sue Lum. “The Open Lab’s hands-on approach captures the wonder of the kids’ interest and imagination.”

Given the wet weather during the Open Lab at Zealandia, this was a perfect opportunity for families to get their hands their dirty while staying dry.

“The Open Lab brings the outdoors in! It’s a great activity when it’s raining,” said Kate Studd, chemical engineer and mother of two.

Mayflies were the most common invertebrates identified at the Open Lab at Zealandia. Scientists were particularly excited to find a leaf-veined slug, which is a member of an ancient family of terrestrial molluscs. This particular species is commonly found around the Wellington region and looks just like a gherkin.

You can join the fun at the next Open Lab, which will be held at the Cockayne Centre at Otari-Wilton’s Bush on Sunday 23 August from 2-4pm.

Story by Amy Brasch


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