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We need your help!

We are researchers at the University of Warwick, and we need YOUR help.

You have probably tried pond dipping in the past, and looked for minibeasts. They may seem small, but we're looking for smaller things, even smaller than bacteria. We are looking for viruses. Most viruses don’t infect people, they attack bacteria – they’re called bacteriophage and it’s these we’re after. Bacteriophage infect bacteria just as much as colds and flu infect us. They’re everywhere but they’re so small we need a huge electron microscope to see them.

We want your class to fetch us some water from somewhere outside. A pond, a stream, a river or a lake – it doesn’t matter which as long as you tell us about it and tell us the postcode.

We will collect the viruses from the water sample, take pictures under our electron microscopes and put them up on the website so you can see what the smallest things in your pond look like.

Why are we doing this?

No one had even seen a virus until 1940 when electron microscopes were invented. A drop of water can contain millions of them. And new viruses are still being discovered quite regularly.

Some might be useful for attacking bacteria that make us sick. Many bacteriophage help bacteria swap DNA which changes how they evolve some bacteriophage can actually make diseases more dangerous.

Bacteriophage come in loads of different shapes and sizes. We hope that by getting water from lots and lots of different places and trying to look at everything in it, we’ll get a much better idea of how many types there are and where to find them. If we’re lucky we might even find some that have never been seen before!

Links

The comic

Read the Virus Hunters comic

The experiment

Take part in the experiment and look at some of the data

The science

Learn about the science of viruses and microscopes

The people

Meet the people behind the project!