Armed with this notion, I headed in to work. After some further failures with the potato (I didn't happen to have radishes sitting around at work), I decided to try cutting thin slices without any extra support, but working under the dissecting scope instead.
And, success. The scope made it much easier to position the razor blade at just the right spot to get multiple beautiful sections. I know it worked well because I was then able to compare growth rings for Day 0 adult crickets (hint: zero growth rings) versus Day 6 adults. Here's a photo of the Day 6 adult:
I also did a bit more reading about methods for preserving stuff on microscope slides. Apparently I'm not the only one who has wondered about this. Our lab storeroom had little bottles of clear nail polish for sale next to the various flavors of slides and coverslips, so I figured I'd give that a try at first.
As of today, it looks like it works well! This is really good because it means I can work in batches and don't have to do each cricket one at a time. So now the rest will be fairly routine: prepare and count rings for crickets of known adult ages to make a calibration curve, then prepare and count rings from the field crickets.
I'm really enjoying the chance to play with the compound microscope we're borrowing from another lab.
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