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iLabs: Visitor Question — Is There a Good Field Guide For Protozoa?

July 18, 2012

A teacher visiting the Micro World Investigate Lab asked a good question that I did not have a ready answer to:

Is there a good field guide or dichotomous key for Protozoa?

We love questions that stump us.  It means we have to go “on the hunt” for information. After some digging, here’s what we came up with. For anyone interested there are a few decent books we are acquiring for use in our lab.

For good classroom activities, the book, Explore the World Using Protozoa, by the National Science Teachers Association, is one we like:

Photo of the book cover for Protozoa, by the NSTA Press

This one has a lot of very good, diverse activities and labs

As far as field guides, I found none for protozoa. I did find ones for freshwater invertebrates (and of course marine invertebrates). A Google search will list a number of them.  If you are trying to give a broader view of pond life than just protozoa, these might help. The two that we have are:

The Field Guide to Freshwater Invertebrates of North America, James H. Thorp, D. Christopher Rogers, editors. Academic Press

A Guide to Common Freshwater Invertebrates of North America, J. Reese Voshell, Jr., author, and Amy Bartlett Wright, illustrator, McDonald and Woodward Publishing Company

I can’t speak to if there are better ones, these are simply ones we have and use.

With regards to dichotomous keys, there are some simple dichotomous keys available for purchase, or sent free when protozoan cultures are purchased. Wards Natural Science has a key to free-living protozoa, as does Carolina Biological and Flinn Scientific, to name a few.

I even came across the 21st century version — an iPhone app that includes a protozoan dichotomous key (done by Carolina Biological)!! I just downloaded it and am going to try it out.

So for anyone teaching protozoan biology or freshwater invertebrates, hopefully these items will give you a start. And of course, I suspect that a simple Google search will yield more information on both freshwater and marine invertebrates.  Good hunting!

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