Last week at After Dark we had a super fun collaboration with the life sciences department to make DIY traps to collect plankton samples. The activity fit the theme of the night, glow, because the plastic bottle traps used different colored glow sticks to attract the tiny creatures that live in the bay. We've been looking for ways of collaborating with the biologists on staff for a while and these homemade tools gave us the perfect opportunity to use our tinkering skills to help visitors create tools for looking at the amazing variety of life that surrounds us here on the bay.
Here's the basic version of the trap. We collected old plastic bottles for the body and cut gaps in the plastic to allow the plankton to float near the glow stick. Then we used hot glue to attach a ring of mesh so that the water could escape when we pulled the traps out of the bay. After floating in the bay for about thirty minutes each trap collected a concentrated plankton sample at the top of the bottle.
Once they finished creating the trap, explainers escorted them to the side of the building and they flung their traps (attached by string of course) into the water and let them float and bob for a while. Sorry for the horrible picture but trust me it looked much more beautiful in real life to have all these different colored lanterns floating near the pier.
Here are a few of the creepy creatures that we found floating around in the bay. Throughout the night there were big crowds gathered around the microscope checking out what we found, but we could see an special pride when people got to see what they personally caught in their traps.
Overall it was a really cool event and a great first collaboration with life sciences. I really liked how we shared expertise and that we could try a new activity in the tinkering studio with a really uncertain outcome. We often say that we want to learn something new from our activities and since I have barely any knowledge of plankton beforehand, I was definitely in that camp. Also it was nice to have people build a real tool that's not so different than what the professionals in our museum use to research and exhibitize the tiny sea creatures that share our new home! We're looking forward to more collaborations across the museum that we can share with visitors to our workshop.