Gossip meeting “Slides by Ernie Ives”

Tuesday 11th August 2020

NOT FINISHED

This meeting was scheduled to be held in the Natural History Museum, but was instead held online using Zoom, because of the COVID-19 epidemic. Paul Smith managed the technical side, and Robert Ratford managed the participants. Details had been e-mailed to Quekett members in advance so that they could prepare their presentations.

Quekett members can watch the video of the meeting.

Robert Ratford repeated the presentation that he gave at the 2019 East of England meeting.

Stephen Parker obtained some slides formerly owned by Les Larkman that included 7 of Ernie’s sections of various parts of Welwitschia mirabilis, a living fossil gymnosperm originally from the Namib desert. Ernie wrote an article in the January 2003 issue of Balsam Post about the difficulties he encountered in trying to make the sections, and how he overcame them, including hardening with potassium silicate and making thicker sections than normal. The slide labels are very close to, or overlapping slightly, the coverslips; it was suggested that this attached the edge of the label with the mountant and reduced the chance of the labels coming off.

Slides of WelwitschiaSlides of Welwitschia mirabilis

Welwitschia mirabilis T.S. rootWelwitschia mirabilis T.S. tap root (1.25× objective)

Welwitschia mirabilis T.S. kneeWelwitschia mirabilis T.S. knee (1.25× objective)

Welwitschia mirabilis female coneWelwitschia mirabilis female cone (1.25× objective)

Joan Bingley gave a PowerPoint presentation with several photographs of Ernie at various microscope meetings (including Dale Fort, Belstead House and Flatford Mill), photos of his marquetry, photos and photomicrographs of his wood sections (including spalted wood), and photos and photomicrographs of his dry mounts of insects and lichen with removable covers. At residential meetings, Ernie used to collect in the morning and then spend the rest of the day making slides, continuing after everyone else had gone to bed.


Click the arrows to move through the slides. Click the symbol at bottom right for a larger version.

After the meeting, Joan provided a diagram of the bench layout that Ernie used for mounting insects:

Bench layout for mounting insectsBench layout for mounting insects

Joan also provided Ernie’s handout on mounting insects:

Basic Technique for Mounting Insects
To be used in conjunction with the demonstrations

Insects preserved in alcohol/glycerine solution.
1. Pierce insect (essential on all but the smallest insects).
2. Transfer to 6% caustic soda, 30 minutes to overnight depending on insect. (As long as possible.)
3. To water, minimum 1 hour (up to 1 day, longer if water is changed). Much longer if possible.
4. Syringe out body contents if insect large enough, otherwise gently pat body with a soft needle.
4a. If body contents not completely removed, repeat 3 and 4.
4b. If specimens are dark in colour, bleach in 9% hydrogen peroxide with a minute amount of Persil non-bio washing powder added. Leave on hotplate at ±35°C for 10 minutes–1 hour. The timing is critical and varies with each specimen. Repeat 3 and, if necessary, 4. Rinse in water
5. Transfer to 10% glycerine, minimum 1 hour (longer preferred). No maximum time.
6. Dehydrate in three alcohols, minimum 1 hour in each. No maximum time.
7. Transfer to cedarwood oil, minimum 1 hour (longer better). No maximum time.
8. Lay out and flatten between two ⅓ slides, clip and transfer to xylene (for at least two hours, the longer the better). No maximum time.
9. Remove clips and place unopened ⅓ slide sandwich in small dish of xylene. Remove top piece of slide (invert if specimen remains on this piece).
10. Put mountant on a slide, lift specimen from xylene whilst still on remaining piece of glass but not stuck to it, slide into mountant and arrange parts. Amount of arrangement is very limited at this stage. Add spacers if necessary.
10a. If specimen is in one piece, add coverglass. If the specimen is in several parts or if spacers are used, put on hotplate with suitable cover to keep out dust for 1 hour and then add more mountant and coverglass. Dipping coverglass in xylene and draining helps the mountant to flow under it.
11. Dry in oven, 1–several days.
12. Clean up, ring (optional) and label.

Alan Wood only met Ernie once, at the 2012 Reading Convention where he was selling his wood section slides for just £1 each and Alan bought 2 of them.

Ernie used a consistent layout for the 3 wood sections on his slides; the large section on the left is transverse, top right is radial and bottom right is tangential.

Wood section slides by Ernie IvesWood section slides by Ernie Ives

Wood from teak (Tectona grandis)Tangential section of wood of teak (Tectona grandis), stained with safranin, 10× objective

Stained section of wood of southern magnoliaTangential section of wood of southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora), stained with safranin, 10× objective

Stephen Parker’s comment about labels prompted Alan to look closely at his wood section slides; the data labels are abutting the coverslips and so would be held firmly on one edge by oozing mountant.

When Ernie’s house was cleared in 2014, more than 30 copies of his self-published book A Guide to Wood Microtomy; Making quality microslides of wood sections came to light. The Quekett made these available for just the cost of postage and packing and they were distributed to microscopists around the world. Ernie produced a second edition in 2009 on CD; contact the webmaster if you would like a link to download the contents of the CD.

CD version of A Guide to Wood MicrotomyCD version of A Guide to Wood Microtomy

Ernie also made slides of insects, and Alan bought 2 of them at a Club meeting.

Slides of ichneumonids by Ernie IvesSlides of ichneumonids by Ernie Ives

Ichneumonid on a slide by Ernie IvesIchneumonid on a slide by Ernie Ives (body length 2.1 mm, 2× objective)

Ichneumonid on a slide by Ernie IvesIchneumonid on a slide by Ernie Ives (body length 2.2 mm, 2× objective)

Spacers supporting coverslipSpacers supporting coverslip, seen through the slide

Alan was surprised by the number of air bubbles on one slide and messy mountant, broken specimen and obvious spacers used to support the coverslip on the other. Comments from the participants agreed that these slides were probably experiments with Ralmount, an unusual mountant. Ernie later used Ralmount for insect and Crustacea slides of his normal high standard, as shown in Carel Sartory’s presentation.

Chris Thomas recommended volumes 1 and 2 of An Atlas of Plant Structure by Brian Bracegirdle & Patricia Miles, out of print but available second-hand, which includes photomicrographs of wood sections.

Chris showed photomicrographs of several wood section slides made by Ernie, including radial, tangential and transverse sections of hardwoods and softwoods using bright-field, dark-ground and crossed polarisers.

Alnus rubra transverse section, 10× objectiveAlnus rubra transverse section, 10× objective

Alnus rubra radial section, 10× objectiveAlnus rubra radial section, 10× objective

Alnus rubra tangential section, 10× objectiveAlnus rubra tangential section, 10× objective

Taxodium distichum transverse section, 10× objectiveTaxodium distichum transverse section showing growth at various times of year, 10× objective

Taxodium distichum radial section, 10× objectiveTaxodium distichum radial section showing long vessels and pits, 10× objective

Taxodium distichum tangential section, 10× objectiveTaxodium distichum tangential section showing rays end-on, 10× objective

Carel Sartory was not able to participate live, so he provided a PowerPoint presentation showing some of his small but varied collection of Ernie’s slides; wood sections, marine crustaceans, a beautiful earwig with extended wings, a fairy fly, a sea urchin spine section and a deep dry mount of lichen with a removable cover (Ernie’s special design). He also included some lovely images of Ernie taken at Malham Tarn and Dale Fort.


Click the arrows to move through the slides. Click the symbol at bottom right for a larger version.

Penny Thoyts’s father was a histopathologist with a large collection of slides that were sadly thrown out (not by Penny) when he died. Penny went to eBay to find some histology slides, started with the tongue of a cat and continuing on that theme.

Penny showed a PowerPoint presentation about tongues that is aimed primarily at children. She started with the structure of tongues and the location of taste buds, and showed us stained sections and injected and corroded preparations. Different types of animal have different tongues. Dog and fox tongues are similar. Cat tongues have spikes and feel rough. Otter tongues are between cat and dog, perhaps to aid in grooming their fur. Sheep tongues have a thick, leathery surface for ripping plant material. Mouse and hedgehog tongues feel like sandpaper. Parrots and gulls have bones in their smooth tongues. Frog tongues are sticky and are used to catch insects.


Click the arrows to move through the slides. Click the symbol at bottom right for a larger version.

Chris Thomas recommended adding chilli powder to bird food to stop squirrels eating it; squirrels have lots of taste buds and dislike the hot chilli, but birds have few taste buds and don’t mind chilli.

Pam Hamer thanked Penny for providing a copy of her presentation to show children at the virtual Sidmouth Science Festival in October 2020.

Robert Ratford recommended Quekett members to join the Club’s Facebook Group, QuekettMicro, where members can share their experiences and ask for advice, and there are announcements about upcoming meetings and the availability of new items on the website. Anyone who does not want to join Facebook can contact the Webmaster for the Username and Password of an anonymous account.

Other relevant Facebook groups include one for the Club’s Cladocera Project, and several for users of microscopes by various manufacturers including American Optical (AO), Bausch & LombCooke, Troughton & Simms (CTS), ioLight, Leica, Leitz, Lomo, Nikon, Olympus, Reichert, Vickers, Watson, Wild and Zeiss.

Tony Pattinson showed photos and diagrams of the metal fluid mounts that he has been developing for large specimens such as tadpole shrimps (Triops cancriformis). They have a valve for injecting fluid with a hypodermic syringe and a vent to allow the fluid to be drained. He has not found a suitable mountant, so the specimens are in 50% glycerine.  The first version was on a 75×50  mm slide and has a removable top. The second version has the top sealed and fits on a standard slide. Tony uses LOCA to fix the mount to the slide. He plans to use watch glasses instead of fragile coverslips.

Metal fluid mounts for tadpole shrimpsMetal fluid mounts for tadpole shrimps

Aydin Örstan is an expert on rotifers and wants to mount them between a round and a square coverslip without a spacer, but has not found a suitable sealant. The specimens are in a mixture of glycerol and water. Jacky McPherson suggested the ringing methods described in “The Preservation and Mounting of Desmids and other Algae” by E. D. Evens (The Journal of the Quekett Microscopical Club, Series 4, Volume V, No. 15, August 1961, pp. 405–410). Gordon Brown suggested Clearseal, formerly sold by NBS, Eric Marson’s company. Its composition had not been disclosed, but Doug Richardson had analysed NBS products and published his findings in Balsam Post. Stephen Livermore had also researched NBS products and had devised a preparation very similar to Clearseal; the formula is in an article on the Quekett website, Wax cells for fluid mounts. Gordon also suggested shim washers; extremely thin ones can be bought, and they can be stuck down and sealed with LOCA (Liquid Optically Clear Adhesive).

Gordon has recorded 2 videos on ringing, one on making turntables spin properly, the other on using the turntables for ringing.

Participants suggested some d.i.y. ringing turntables made from computer hard disks or cake turntables.

There was some discussion of where to buy cheap Chinese microscope cameras, and Gordon Brown provided this link:

Shop5496007 Store (5.0MP 2.0MP USB Video Camera Electronic Digital Eyepiece Microscope Camera Lab Measurement Software + 23.2mm C Mount Adapter)

The sensors on these cameras are very small, so you also need a reducing lens to preserve the field of view:

Eakins Micscope Store (Microscope Camera 0.5X C-Mount Lens /CCD CMOS Camera Digital Eyepiece Adapter 0.5X Reducing Lens,23.2mm+30mmm+30.5mm Ring)

Mike Gibson was not able to participate live, so he provided photomicrographs of different xylem and wood elements that he has found in toilet paper.

Wood elements from toilet tissue (fluorescence)Wood elements from toilet tissue (fluorescence)

Tracheid element from toilet tissue (crossed polarisers plus retarder)Tracheid element from toilet tissue (crossed polarisers plus retarder)

Mike Gibson and Mike Asquith have been investigating ways to produce cellulose acetate peels of freshly fractured wood surfaces, such as this one:

Cellulose acetate peel of softwood timberCellulose acetate peel of softwood timber

Mike Asquith has kindly provided notes on his protocol:

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