On 22 May 2019, the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) celebrated the opening of its Biosystematics Training Centre at the campus of Plant Health and Protection in Roodeplaat with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, which was followed by a comprehensive demonstration of the capability of the new ZEISS microscopes in operation at the digital classroom facility.

A new dawn for the educational and research landscape

Leonard Nyanga, account manager of ZEISS Microscopy SA, introduced the new ZEISS microscopes by demonstrating how it enables a more blended educational environment. “By combining cutting-edge ZEISS microscopy technology with an organisation’s digital network, you can provide the educational sector with a more interactive approach to learning and development.

“One of the many readily available features of this microscope is its ability to take high-resolution, true-colour photographs and videos of microscopic samples through a build-in camera that’s connected to a wireless internet router. You can then connect to the router through an IOS or Windows mobile device that allows you to access more advanced microscope functionalities through the ZEISS Labscope application.”

Nyanga continued with a demonstration that showed how the Labscope application allows one to make annotations on images, create report layouts ready for print and lets you save or share files with anyone through your network. “This interconnected network of microscopes gives facilitators full rein when it comes to monitoring the progress of pupils by giving teachers access to a live thumbnail viewing panel that facilitates more interactivity.”

ZEISS allows for a more objective observation

Dr Ansa van Vuuren, Senior Manager at ARC-Plant Health and Protection , expressed her excitement about the new Biosystematics Training Centre. “I cannot think of a better example of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This is where the edges of biotechnology, science, imaging and digital network systems melt together into something much bigger than I ever expected.”

Ian Millar, Vivienne Uys and Petro Marais, all scientists at Biosystematics , explained how they go about research, specimen preservation and identification with the help of the ZEISS microscope in their department. Robin Lyle, a senior technician at the ARC, explained that the direct tracing and measuring tools that the ZEISS Labscope application provides can be used on captured images, allowing for a more objective approach to conducting research.

Collection of biological samples

Dr Werner Strümpher gave an introductory lecture on some of the tools used in the field when collecting entomology l samples. “This is a critical and foundational component of many research projects, especially in the field of natural science. The collection of raw data is often used and further explored in a laboratory setting, where it enables you to test your research hypothesis. Natural history collections around the world currently house over 200 million biological specimens in safekeeping.”

Dr Strümpher explained that the rate of bio-specimen collection is growing world-wide, with the American Natural History Museum’s collection growing by more than 100 000 specimens annually. “Collection requires a deliberate effort and is not something that just happens by chance. But it also the most fun you can have on any research project.” – Claudi Nortjé, Plaas Media