Ever have that recurring nightmare where you are taking a test and can’t remember anything you’ve learned or the one about being late to school on an important day? Mine was always about the science fair. I woke up with a heavy sweat because the entire dream was about not having a science fair project the day I had to present it.
My solution was to do a science experiment. I chose a tiny invertebrate – the indestructible Water Bear (otherwise known as Tardigrades)!
Why the Water Bear? Everyone knows that roaches are supposed to be one of the most indestructible species on earth, able to survive nuclear destruction. They may have stiff competition in this little guy, an invertebrate that pushes himself along with stubby limbs. He looks like an 8-legged live gummy bear.
Found in densely damp undergrowth like moss, they don’t die when the moss dries up. They turn into specks that look like dust called tuns. In this condition, they’re in a state of suspended animation. They can stay like that until they’re blown away by wind and come across another damp location, where they rehydrate and pick up where they left off. In the dehydrated state, they can tolerate extreme heat and be exposed to severe cold, still able to survive.
How do I know? I did my own science experiment by scraping some moss from the neighborhood garden pond. Then I put it in a petri dish and placed it under my trusty old microscope. Sure enough, I saw it moving around like a live gummy bear. Then I turned on my blow dryer to put some heat over the dish. After 10 seconds I looked at the dish, and I could see these specks, I slid it under the microscope and it was the tardigrade. They had dried up too. Then I added water to the dish and watched as they rehydrated, moving in a squirm again.
Pretty neat, huh?
So tonight, I’ll be able to sleep soundly again knowing I have my science fair project ready the next time I have the same nightmare. What did you do for your science fair?
Next time you need a science fair project, check out the EPA Students site for ideas: http://epa.gov/students/sciencefair.html
Yvonne Gonzalez is a SCEP intern with the Air and Radiation Division in Region 5. She is currently pursuing a dual graduate degree at DePaul University.