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Citizen science and global biodiversity
Citizen science and global biodiversity

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2.1 USB microscopes

This section looks at the increasingly popular USB microscopes which have become more easily available and accessible over recent years.

USB microscopes and add-on lenses for smartphones

USB microscopes are simple to use and highly portable, offering magnifications of up to about 200x, with built-in LED lighting. However, the quality of images produced by these devices might not be suitable for fungal identification, especially at higher magnifications. This type of microscope is more suitable for studying insects or very small pond life.

It is also possible to use a smartphone equipped with an add-on close-up lens. The magnification obtained with this set-up is less than you would get from a USB microscope but can still be high enough to study species such as mosses. (Bear in mind, though, that the quality and price of close-up lenses for smartphones varies considerably.) See for example the images, which were posted on iSpot, of:

Figures 4–7 show a selection of images supplied by iSpot users, taken using various types of conventional microscope to demonstrate their use.

microscope view of Fissidens exilis
Figure 4 Moss Fissidens exilis seen with a dissecting microscope at 15x magnification
microscope view of a single leaf
Figure 5 Image of a single leaf taken using a compound microscope at 100x magnification
microscope view of a fungus
Figure 6 Scarlet elf cup fungus (Sarcoscypha austriaca), taken at 400x magnification, showing characteristic blunt-ended spores and corkscrew hairs on the outside of the cup
microscope view of Glandular hairs on a sticky mouse-ear plant
Figure 7 Glandular hairs on a sticky mouse-ear plant (Cerastium glomeratum), taken with a clip-on close-up attachment for a smartphone