5. Droplet prints

The first phase of the project is now complete. I am looking at the first five completed ‘droplet prints’. Since beginning my study of drops of water lifted from a series of locations along the River Nene, I have watched and waited, poured and peered at hundreds of samples. While I have no formal knowledge of the tiny organisms I have observed, and as yet have attempted no formal identifications, my awareness of the life forms which may be discovered, grazing, growing, reproducing and dying in this microscopic environment, continues to broaden with each dip.

Newnham 1

Newnham 1

This first print from water taken at Newnham, introduced me to two distinct species of elongated organisms grazing amongst grains of sediment.

Weedon Bec 2

Weedon Bec 2

Collecting the samples has not been without incident and I offer my apologies to the residents of Weedon Bec, where I confidently cast my collecting apparatus into the fast flowing current, only for the plastic pot to detach itself from the ‘rod’ and go soaring into the air before disappearing downstream. Guilty of an act of pollution, I was forced to rethink my design.

This delicate second print is characterised many tiny dot-like organisms scattered amongst vegetation.

Kislingbury 3

Kislingbury 3

This third print sees the addition of more varied forms, including a collection of barely discernible circular shapes which were observed singly as well as in clusters.

At Kislingbury I was subject to more than passing interest, from walkers and joggers. The double bridges and walkways here form part of a recently constructed flood defence area, and it was clear that my presence was viewed with some concern as I apparently ‘looked official’.

Waterside - Northampton 4

Waterside - Northampton 4

Gathering a sample at the University of Northampton’s Waterside campus from the newly constructed curved bridge which spans both the river and the canal, drew no such interest, save for mild curiosity from the crowded geese below.

On inspection the droplet of water taken here contained a high quantity of worm-like creatures of different lengths and thickness, which I had not come across previously.

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The new construction for collecting water proved to be more robust, an old tin previously used for gardening string, securely wired to a long stick, fastened to the ball of string (previously stored in the tin).  This I discovered could be lowered and then tilted sufficiently to entrap the required amount of water, from even the highest of bridges.

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The final sample for this phase was taken from a very cold bridge at Great Doddington. The water tumbled through sparkling and clear, but my young assistant was not permitted to drink this precious sample!

Great Doddington 5

Great Doddington 5

Great Doddington revealed many delicate leaves and stalk-like vegetation, and curious compact circular forms which appeared to spin and shine creating a halo effect.

Each print merely represents a snapshot of a drop of water from each chosen point along the watercourse and as such their content will inevitably be subject to many variables, such as water temperature, speed of flow, light levels. However, placed alongside one another these first prints already provide a clue to the immense biodiversity of this ‘invisible world’.

The next phase of the work will continue from Little Irchester as the river begins to turn northwards towards its final destination, the North Sea.