Neat accessories and hacks

updated: 2021-10-28

Re-expose VIRTUE discs

You can put back the VIRTUE discs (in the same order!) on the rack and allow the fouling to continue. It is of course particularly important to expose animals and plants to the air as briefly as possible. You need to attach new cable ties to keep the discs on the rack. (Cable ties can be purchased in hardware stores). You also need a plier to cut the cable ties.


Clean VIRTUE discs and spacer (distance) pipes

After retrieving your rack (usually in the fall), save the spacer and center pipes, discs and the sign/marker.
These items  should be re-used for several seasons! You help the environment and save money and you only need new ropes and cable ties.

Pipes and discs can be cleaned in a plastic wash tub / dish bowl with 10 % white vinegar. Let stay for a week and then wipe off all fouling with a soft Scotch Brite or similar scouring pad.
Alternative, if you are in a hurry, place the discs and pipes in 10 % caustic soda and wait over night. Use dish gloves and safety glasses! 





Stronger VIRTUE-racks?

Although VIRTUE racks are quite rugged, the rope is the weakest link due to ice, heavy waves or sharp objects. Replace the rope with a thin (2 mm) stainless wire and wire locks.



Photographing VIRTUE discs

You will find more ways of image documentation in the book Exemplary Practices in Marine Science Education. A Resource for Practitioners and Researchers, chapter The Virtue Project and the Biofilms and Biodiversity Project: An International Collaboration in Marine Science Education. New York: Springer. 2018. ISBN 978-3-319-90778-9

You can photograph VIRTUE discs one by one in a plastic bucket with a hole of appropriate size for the camera lens cut into the lid (to reduce reflections).  The lid can be painted black underneath for better effect.

The water level should be a few centimeters above the top of the VIRTUE disc. This reduces the risk of reflections and shadows on the water surface that deteriorate image quality. Image contrast can be improved using polarization filters on the lens.

You can also take photos and videos  with relatively inexpensive low-cost compact cameras. All major camera brands have one or more models in price ranges from about 200 EUR. They are waterproof down to 6-10 meters, have high resolution and also capture video in HD quality. Some also have LEDs around the lens for close-up shooting. This type of camera thus has the option of close-ups and sometimes also macro images (unlike so-called action cameras, type GoPro, which need an extra close up lens)


A USB microscope is a digital microscope that connects to a computer via the USB port. USB microscopes work much like a web camera, but are adapted for close-up with up to 400 times magnification and with resolution of 0.3-5 megapixels. They usually have built-in LED lighting and you can shoot and shoot with them. One big advantage is that you can display images "live" on a projection screen or smart board. Available in price range from about 100 EUR . Dino-Lite is the original and have so far the best USB microscopes and are unfortunately also the most expensive. You can find quite good alternatives in many tech shops and on the web. 

With this adapter, you can wirelessly (wi-fi) view images / video from a USB microscope on up to 10 tablets or cell phones.

You do not need to connect the microscope to a computer. How it works:

You can shoot organisms in close proximity with your smartphone - if you get a macro lens. (Many newer mobile cameras already have a macro mode)



Macro photos with iPad
Apps for the iPad and macrophotography

Action cameras
Action cameras, such as GoPro, can, like other waterproof cameras, be attached to a long bar to film or take timed photos below the water surface. With the help of the moving part of the camera mount, you can angle the camera so that you can photograph the underside of piers, boats etc. Close-ups photos require a "close up lens", as this type of camera has a fixed focus


LED lights (e.g. IKEA), about 10 EUR with flexible swan neck are excellent for use in all types of magnification equipment. They generate no harmful heat and consume very little energy.

Measure salinity

Salinity meter
(Also named Refractometer)
Costs about 30 EUR

Share your own hacks

Do you have any good ideas and suggestions that you want to share with others? Please contact us!