Unlocking Nature's Secrets with Portable Microscopy - Insights from ioLight

Discover Andrew's groundbreaking work in conservation with portable microscopy from ioLight. Join an insightful interview led by Ussi Abuu, a Key Conservation Catalyst at WildHub, as they delve into the transformative impact of this innovative technology.
Unlocking Nature's Secrets with Portable Microscopy - Insights from ioLight
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In this contribution, Andrew Monk, one of ioLight’s founders, shares how technology can benefit conservation. Discover how ioLight's innovative technology is making a tangible difference in conservation efforts worldwide, from aiding research expeditions to Mount Everest to empowering fieldwork in remote locations. Let’s explore how portable microscopy can transform conservation.

Empowering Conservation: Embracing Innovation for a Sustainable Future

Ussi: Can you please share with us a bit about your background and your experience being a WildHub member? 

Andrew: I'm not an environmentalist by training, my background is in Optics and Electronics. My company, ioLight, specializes in developing technology, particularly a patented microscope with high resolution that fits in a jacket pocket. Initially, we sought customers and discovered a vibrant community of environmentalists in need of portable microscopy for fieldwork. Joining WildHub allowed me to share this innovation with others.

Ussi: What is an application of portable microscopy within conservation work?

Andrew: We're particularly interested in detecting Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs), which can be mistaken for harmless algae. Our microscope offers a reliable way to distinguish between the two, aiding in environmental monitoring efforts. You can read about this in my WildHub post here.

Ussi: Can you share examples of situations where your microscope has helped research for conservation efforts?

Andrew: One notable example is National Geographic's expedition to Mount Everest in 2019. They aimed to study the impact of climate change on protozoa at 5,000m. Traditional optical microscopes were impractical for such remote fieldwork. Our portable microscope enabled them to conduct critical observations in challenging environments. You can see their video and our microscope in the video below. 

Ussi: How do you support your partners around the world?

Andrew: We've established a global network of distributors and service agents to support our customers worldwide. Approximately 80% of our microscopes are sold outside the UK, where our company is based.

Ussi: What are your main concerns or considerations when adopting new technologies for conservation purposes, and how can companies like ioLight address these concerns effectively?

Andrew: Conservation brings up a lot of new technical problems. For example: "How do I carry my laboratory microscope out into the Amazon Rainforest and then share my images with colleagues in the lab?" It is hard to change from an accepted solution to a more innovative one. We work with environmental evangelists (Like WildHub) to spread the news, and it would be great if you could help us, please.

Ussi: What advice would you give to other career switchers that you wish you knew from the start?

Andrew:

  1. Cultivate a strong professional network.
  2. Listen to feedback and adapt accordingly.
  3. Pursue your passions in your work.
  4. Discern between valuable advice and noise.
  5. Proceed cautiously, balancing intuition with informed decisions.

Ussi: Any final thoughts you would like to share with our WildHub members?

Andrew: For more information about our microscopes, please visit our website here

In conclusion, Andrew's work with ioLight demonstrates the practical impact of technology in conservation efforts. By providing portable microscopy solutions, ioLight is helping researchers make vital discoveries in remote locations and enables them to share these with their coworkers. Let's continue to collaborate on innovative initiatives like ioLight to protect our planet for future generations. Thank you, Andrew, for your dedication to conservation.

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Go to the profile of Thirza Loffeld
2 months ago

Thanks for sharing this resource contribution Ussi and Andrew; amazing to hear about the Everest expedition also! 

@Andrew Monk : could you perhaps share how you envision to create a win-win situation for the connections made through WildHub? Or perhaps you have some examples of this already since you joined? 

Go to the profile of Andrew Monk
2 months ago

Thank you, @Thirza Loffeld Loffeld. That is a great question. If Wild Hub can help me connect to environmental researchers working in the field, we can help you carry a good-quality microscope wherever you go, even on aircraft flights. The Everest Expedition is a perfect example. They spent many years looking for a microscope that they could carry up to 5000m. Those images that Dr Seimon got from protozoa under the ice are not something you could do with an expensive lab microscope. This is not a commercial website, but we can offer a discount to Wild Hub members buying ioLight products.

Go to the profile of Thirza Loffeld
2 months ago

Wonderful to read. Thanks Andrew! 

Go to the profile of Ussi Abuu Mnamengi
2 months ago

Dear @Thirza Loffeld  thank you for informing me.  @Andrew Monk did a fantastic job, and I appreciate his contribution. I'm delighted to hear that the resource was helpful for WildHub members and countless others worldwide

Go to the profile of Andrew Monk
2 months ago

Thank you @Ussi Abuu Mnamengi and @Thirza Loffeld 

Go to the profile of Ussi Abuu Mnamengi
2 months ago

Dear Andrew, You're welcome.