The animals and plants on the discs can be studied using magnifying glass, stereo loupe, microscope, or USB microscope (DinoLite is the orginal and the best, but unfortunately the most expensive. There are several quite good copies on the market). This is a VIRTUE video showing how you can use photo and video in microscopy:
The level of the study will, of course, change according to the age and knowledge of the students. One can choose to just look at the discs to try to identify the animals by species or group, or one can go deeper to determine connections and describe the biodiversity based on the collected information.
Often it may be beneficial to scrape off some of the fouling, make preparations and study them under a microscope in greater magnification. This is especially true when there are few larger organisms or when you want to study i.e. diatoms, which dominate in wintertime.
Read more about what happens when a biofilm is formed on a VIRTUE disc in seawater and How to calculate biodiversity.and Short video lessons on biofilms and biodiversity.
Plastic bowls for VIRTUE discs
It may be difficult to find an appropriate, high enough bowl to accommodate the discs under a stereo loupe. Cut the bottom part of a round plastic jar with bottom diameter of at least 14 cm (a VIRTUE disc is 12 cm) with a height of 4 cm. Such jars are common for food packaging - ask at restaurants etc.
Report your observations in the VIRTUE’s database
Species and other observations can be reported in the VIRTUE´s database. You can also blog about your findings, read up on your earlier observations or other people's findings and compare your findings with theirs.
You can find useful instructions and other information how to work with VIRTUEs database here or watch our instructional videos on this YouTube VIRTUE channel.
Report on paper
Sometimes it may be difficult to fill in the results directly in VIRTUE’s database (e.g. when you are out in the field. An alternative is to use VIRTUE’s recording sheets (can be downloaded here) and later transfer the observations to VIRTUE’s database when you are back in school.