...what lives in a drop of water? (with Chloé Savard)

Ever Wonder? / October 12, 2022
Image attribution
Courtesy of Chloé Savard

We humans might think we run the world… but we’re vastly outnumbered by microscopic creatures we can’t see with our own eyes. Soil, air, water… everything around us is full of these tiny microbes. Even a simple puddle can be teeming with life…

Ever wonder what lives in a drop of water?

On today’s episode we chat with Chloé Savard, a microbiology student in Montreal who explores the microscopic world, or microverse, in her free time. She shares her findings through super cool and colorful videos on her Tardibabe social media accounts. We talked to Chloe all about her adventures hunting for microbes and what it’s like to share science on social media. She also shared some pretty amazing facts about microbes along the way—check it out!

Have a question you’ve been wondering about? Send us an email or voice recording to [email protected] to tell us what you’d like to hear in future episodes.

Follow us on Twitter (@casciencecenter), Instagram (@californiasciencecenter), and Facebook (@californiasciencecenter).


Jennifer Aguirre (00:06):

Hello, this is Ever Wonder from the California Science Center, I'm Jennifer Aguirre. We humans might think we run the world, but we're vastly outnumbered by microscopic creatures we can't see with our own eyes. Soil, air, water, everything around us is full of these tiny microbes. Even a simple puddle can be teaming with life. Ever wonder what lives in a drop of water? On today's episode, we chat with Chloé Savard , a microbiology student in Montreal, who explores the microscopic world or microverse in her free time. She shares her findings through super cool and colorful videos on her tardibabe social media accounts. We talked to Chloe all about her adventures, hunting for microbes and what it's like to share science on social media. She also shares some pretty amazing facts about microbes along the way.

Jennifer Aguirre (00:56):

Chloe, you are a microbiology college student in Montreal. Chloe, welcome to the show.

Chloé Savard  (01:01):

Thank you.

Jennifer Aguirre (01:02):

And Liz Roth-Johnson, editor and co-host for today's show is also here with us. Hi Liz.

Liz Roth-Johnson (01:08):

Hey, Jenny. And hi Chloe. So Chloe, we came across your work, uh, when we were looking for videos of microorganisms for an exhibit update we're working on here at the California Science Center. Uh, so you run a social media account under the handle tardibabe, where you invite people to quote unquote hop into the micro verse. Could you tell us a little bit more about your tardibabe account, for example, what would people find there?

Chloé Savard  (01:31):

They will find mostly the hidden life around them and the amount of biodiversity that is surrounding them. And, uh, it will show lots of different microbes like phytoplankton, ciliates, amoeba, and small animals like tardigrades, rotifers and lots, lots more.

Liz Roth-Johnson (01:53):

So you're really, uh, exploring this microscopic world. So I imagine you're using microscopes to collect a lot of your, your images and videos, Is that right?

Chloé Savard  (02:00):

Yes, absolutely. I use my home microscope that I got, uh, last year and my iPhone, uh, which I put on my microscope with a special adapter.

Liz Roth-Johnson (02:10):

And you had mentioned a few different names of some of the, the microbes that are featured in your videos, but let's talk about them a little bit more. Could you help us get to know some of the microbes that, that we might see, uh, featured in your videos?

Chloé Savard  (02:22):

There are so many different ones, uh, that I post about. Mostly tardigrades because people just are crazy about them and so am I. And I post a lot about, uh, algae that I find in ponds and lakes. Uh, also like small invertebrates like hydra, which can be even found in home aquariums. I was like at my, uh, friend's place a couple days ago and she has a, an aquarium and I just go straight inside. I sit in front of it and I'm like, Hey, this, there's this and this and this and your aquarium. So it's like, there are always like big surprises. So I never know exactly what I am going to post.

Liz Roth-Johnson (03:05):

It sounds like you get pretty creative with where you are actually collecting these microbes that show up in your videos. Like Yeah. Where, where do they live and where are you finding these things in the first place?

Chloé Savard  (03:16):

Uh, it really depends. Like, if I'm really going to chase tardigrades, I'll be looking into mosses and lichens. But if I want like small aquatic invertebrates, uh, I'll be looking in my backyard, ponds, lakes, swamps, river, well, any fresh water. Like tomorrow I'm planning to go back to the botanical garden, which they have like big ponds over there. So I always go over there to like simple different, uh, small places around the pond. And

Liz Roth-Johnson (03:49):

So you're really like a, a micro hunter. I mean, before you even do your videos and you're out there in the world like searching for pools of water and mosses and lichens and collecting things.

Chloé Savard  (04:00):

Yeah, I really love to like observe the environment and like, I'm always like alert and aware, like of where I can find microbes and like even uh, when I'm in car with friends or anything like this, I'm like, Oh my God, look at this swamp. Like, there will be so many cool stuff in there. And I'm always like, it's like, um, in my subconscious now, like any places that can be some microbes, I'll be like focusing on this.

Liz Roth-Johnson (04:30):

When you're going around hunting for microbes, collecting samples, I mean, do you know what you're gonna find when you collect a sample?

Chloé Savard  (04:38):

Um, it depends. Some stuff I can see, uh, with the naked eye, like when I go to my friend's place that has an aquarium and I'm like looking into it and I'm like, this is this, and oh, this is fluffy around the, this plant. So it must be a Vorticella, well, a colony of it. Or in my backyards when I see like some green, uh, fluffy stuff on, uh, like a water bottle or anything. I know there will be algae or in a bird bat when I see lots of red things. I know it's, uh, Haematococcus, algae that are red. Like with experience, you learn how to recognize like, uh, stuff from, uh, naked eyes. But it's mostly surprises, like when you take samples from ponds or stuff like that. Just like oop and then if you look at the naked eye, oh, like you can see a water flea, but you know, it takes practice and time. Uh, but I have like still every time my sample, I have nice surprises like that. I, I never thought I would see this organism or, so there's a lot of surprises. And that's really cool because that's how you discover new species.

Liz Roth-Johnson (05:54):

What was one of your most surprising finds?

Chloé Savard  (05:57):

Well, lately, like this summer, I've, I went on vacation with my mom to a new city I've never been to. And I like, I took lots of sample from like a lake that was near and another pond that was in the mountains. And, and, and both of these fresh water buddies, I, I found some species I've never seen before. Like, um, there's a, a colonial rotifers like, like a colony of rotifers, uh, that stick together, uh, by their foot and it looks like a snowflake. And like I was really wondering when I'll find this organism. It's been like two years I knew about it. So I was really, really happy. Um, like this one was really cool when I saw it. What else? Like I saw so many new species this summer, so, uh, it was just really, really cool.

Liz Roth-Johnson (06:57):

So let's go back to one of the microbes in particular that you mentioned, uh, that you especially love the tardigrade, your social media handle, tardibabe is a play on tardigrade, of course.

Chloé Savard  (07:07):


Liz Roth-Johnson (07:09):

Now folks listening to this may or may not be familiar already with what a tardigrade is. We don't have the luxury of being able to show it on a podcast. So, uh, maybe you could just kind of paint a picture, describe to people like what yeah, what is a tardigrade and what does it look like?

Chloé Savard  (07:24):

Uh, it looks like a mix of lots of different things. Uh, it has like a small, uh, piglet nose. Uh, it also looks a bit like a bear because of the long claw, but they don't have four paws. They have eight small legs with a huge claws. Uh, they also have eyes, well, most of them do have eyes like two small, uh, black dots as a as eyes. Um, and yeah, they're, most of them are transparent, so you can really see inside them.

Liz Roth-Johnson (08:02):

They're basically like, they're microscopic, but they're like, but they're animals. They're not a single cell. They're, they're made of many cells, like animals like us, but they're microscopic. So they're just super teeny, teeny tiny, is that right?

Chloé Savard  (08:13):

Exactly, yeah. They're made of thousand cells.

Liz Roth-Johnson (08:17):

Thousand cells. And I guess just for comparison, uh, you know, to give people an idea of what a thousand cells means, I think a a typical human is made out of something like tens of trillions of cells. So a thousand cells, you know, is not a lot of cells in, in the animal world.

Chloé Savard  (08:33):

It's basic. Yeah, exactly. But they do have like a complete digestive system. They have a small brain, uh, they have the black small eyes. Uh, they do have a reproductive, uh, system too. Uh, they don't have any like a heart or anything like this because, uh, they're small enough for oxygen to like, uh, pass through the, their kind of skin called cuticle. So yes. But they're like complex for a small animal that has only a thousand cells.

Liz Roth-Johnson (09:09):

Yeah. And they're pretty cute and funny looking. I mean, they, they, like you said, they have eight legs and they kind of, when you watch them, they're sort of like ambling around almost like they're walking but not super productively. And I've heard people call them, you know, tardigrade is one name for them, but I've also heard people call them water bears or moss piglets.

Chloé Savard  (09:26):


Liz Roth-Johnson (09:26):

I think kind of alluding to what you mentioned, that they kind of look like bears and they kind of had that pig nose.

Chloé Savard  (09:30):


Liz Roth-Johnson (09:30):

So they're really, uh, cute, cute little creatures.

Jennifer Aguirre (09:33):

I wanted to switch, um, gears and, and ask you, Chloe, so, uh, besides your post being so creative and beautiful, they include a lot of information about the microbes. It seems like you put a lot of research into these posts. Uh, could you tell us more about the process?

Chloé Savard  (09:52):

Well, I have a couple books at home and I have a couple PDFs on my, i on my iPad, like about rotifer and tardigrades and lots of algae. So yeah, I, uh, look into my stuff first if I already have some information about them. So usually like scientific articles and books. And then if I don't have any information, I'll go on, uh, Google' Scholar and then, uh, yeah, type into Google Scholar and find some, some articles that can really help me, uh, summarize the, the main characteristics of the, the organism.

Liz Roth-Johnson (10:30):

You're doing all this research and what I love about your post too is you include a lot of those citations like in the post.

Chloé Savard  (10:36):


Liz Roth-Johnson (10:36):

Why is that so important to you to include kind of those citations and all that information?

Chloé Savard  (10:41):

Because I want people to take like what I say seriously and yeah, I want them to know that what I say is like actually founded.

Liz Roth-Johnson (10:49):

Founded in reality or science or...

Chloé Savard  (10:51):

Yeah, exactly. Yeah, there's a lot of misinformation. And even on big accounts, like in few days ago I was looking through some posts and I was like, this isn't actually true. So I was like, it's, it's hard to like know for sure that what someone says is true or not. So I really want people to be even able to go see themselves. Like I put all their references. So if they're like wondering, Oh, is it really true? Or Oh, I wanna read more about it because I think it's really interesting. Then, uh, yeah, so they have the freedom to go check by themselves, you know.

Jennifer Aguirre (11:34):

You know, your account is, I think it's so precious cause it's just, it's really beautiful. Um, the colors, the music, everything. And then you have factual information. So it's like, I'm not gonna go somewhere read something and then sound dumb in public cause I can, I can count on you, um...

Chloé Savard  (11:54):

And even I sometimes, uh, make mistakes in my post and like, when I try, I'm trying to interpret some, some information can be hard, like when I go only with, uh, scientific articles. So sometimes I reread my posts and like, uh, correct things if I'm like, Oh my God, what did I write here? Uh, yeah. And also with TikTok nowadays I'm seeing a lot of, uh, microscope stuff that is fake. So like worms and food and mites in foods and like, and you know, it's fake. Like, well, I know it's fake, but no one knows if it's fake because they, they don't have a microscope at home or like, didn't, never had a experience with microscopes. So yeah, I see some account debunking, like those viral videos like of worms on, uh, in food and it's actually pretty easy. You just take a piece of food and you take your pond sample and you mix them together and then you get something people will be disgusted about and viral stuff, you know? And I'm so sad because I'm like, Oh my God, there's some account I have millions of followers because of those fake videos. And I'm like, oh my God.

Jennifer Aguirre (13:11):

It's not, it's not accurate. Yeah, no, it's like when you have, you know, your friend and they're like, Oh, did you see this? And, and then you're like, No, that's not, you know, there's no facts to that.

Chloé Savard  (13:21):


Liz Roth-Johnson (13:21):

Friends, don't let friends share bad fake microscope videos on social media, right?

Jennifer Aguirre (13:27):


Chloé Savard  (13:27):

No. Well, I had some friends sending me those, uh, videos because they thought it was true and they know like, I do microscope and I'm like, Dude, that's not even true. And they're like, Oh, okay. So I can at least like tell my friends that it's not true, but I am not making like, uh, videos about it to tell, uh, everyone that it's fake.

Liz Roth-Johnson (13:48):


Chloé Savard  (13:49):

But some people are are doing it, so that's really good.

Liz Roth-Johnson (13:52):

Right. You're, you're, you're countering it with just a lot of really great good information that people can get into.

Jennifer Aguirre (13:57):

All right, Chloe, so what is something cool that you have learned?

Chloé Savard  (14:01):

Well, something really cool I've learned, it's the defense mechanisms of ciliates, that are a type of, uh, single cell protist. Um, some have like pink or blue pigments, like, uh, pink pigments in Blepharisma and the blue pigments in Stentor, they act as photo receptors, but they are also toxic so they can be released in the environment to escape predators. Another example would be, uh, Paramecium. They can, uh, shoot small spines when they're threatened. So it's really cool because they're like small Pokemons, like, well, like any other animals that have defense mechanism, I like. I think they're all like little small, like small Pokemons that have their own, like their own attacks. So that's something really cool I came across.

Liz Roth-Johnson (14:55):

Okay. So when you were describing the, the little Pokemon...

Chloé Savard  (14:57):


Liz Roth-Johnson (14:57):

I had a really specific mental image in my head. So Blepharisma, I, I've seen some of those videos of, of those creatures and they, I mean they look, they're like little single celled pink creatures, right? They're pink.

Chloé Savard  (15:08):


Liz Roth-Johnson (15:08):

So I mean, I'm sitting here imagining them as like little fairy Pokemon and they get spooked and then like, it's almost like squid, what you were describing or octopus, like they can release the pink in a little cloud of, of toxic, uh,

Chloé Savard  (15:22):


Liz Roth-Johnson (15:22):

Fluff to escape predators. That's so, such a funny mental image to me.

Chloé Savard  (15:27):

Yeah. I know it's, it's really cool. And I've even, uh, for the Paramecium that, uh, like shoot little spines, I've even caught it on on camera too. I posted it like last year, but I'll probably repost it because it's something I really thought it was cool. There was like this small, uh, predator that, it's called Dileptus and it's like mainly their biggest, uh, predator. And there was like this whole colony of Paramecium that was like circling, uh, around it and it was like shooting spine from every angle. And I was like, Oh my God. And I could finally see it because I bought like a face contrast condenser. So like something that can show you some even more invisible stuff that you can't see with bright field or dark field or any other traditional, uh, microscopic illumination. So yeah, but this, and I could like see those spines now and I was mind blown. It was really like a small Pokemon to like a earth Pokemon or plant.

Liz Roth-Johnson (16:37):

Yeah, it, it's cool how different they can look. You, you mentioned a few different techniques that, that you can use with the microscope. And I think, you know, most people when they start out, or if they've used a microscope, maybe in a biology class at some point, uh, it's probably bright field that's sort of the most common, put a slide on a microscope and shine a light through it. But, um, but there's so many different techniques that sort of reveal different things. And one of them that you use, uh, sometimes that is really fun is polarized light and it just makes things look glittery and shiny and magical.

Chloé Savard  (17:06):

Oh my god, I love it. Yes. And then I put like a, uh, small petri dish and I can create like even more colors so I can like create like that, this, that small rainbow. And I love to play with this a lot. And there's some organism though it doesn't work on, so sometimes I have to try it. Like I try, like what I do now is when I found find like some new organism, I try every type of elimination, all of my techniques, and I'm like, okay, this one really works well, like last year it could take me hours to do something that now takes me one hour. So, uh, yeah. So it's, everything is becoming really easier. Uh, and I can see the improvement from - like in only a year.

Liz Roth-Johnson (18:00):

That's great. Yeah. You stuck with it and it's gotten easier and it, it just sounds, um,

Chloé Savard  (18:03):


Liz Roth-Johnson (18:03):

so creative. I mean it's, it's science, but it's art and it's, there's so a lot of creativity that goes into to your work it sounds like. So you have these beautiful videos, they're visually stunning. You have great information. One other piece of your accounts we haven't talked about that I also really love is the music.

Chloé Savard  (18:21):


Liz Roth-Johnson (18:21):

So you have really great music with all of your videos that just creates this super awesome micro verse vibe and kind of contributes to like your whole thing being as much about art as science. It's really great. Tell us a little more about just the music and how you pick music to go with these different videos.

Chloé Savard  (18:40):

It's mainly like my personal taste that I will base myself on. So I love video game music, especially Zelda, uh, film soundtracks, eighties music in general and synth wave, uh, music and lofi too. So I try to, uh, pair this with my videos. Uh, but I also use original music from artists that I've met on and stuff that are around the world. And I made new friends like along the way and yeah, we talk like often and some, some of these friends now like send me some tracks and everything. So it's super cool because while I used to do study in music for, uh, years and years, uh, so I, music is something that is really close to my heart and knowing how, uh, it is to be a musician, I know it's super hard. So I'm trying not to use only like, uh, mainstream stuff, but also like, uh, music that are from like, uh, small artists that are not really known. So I think it's even more original to do this too.

Liz Roth-Johnson (19:54):

Do you have any like, particular examples of maybe one or two videos that you really love the pairing of the video and the music you could share? Just specific examples.

Chloé Savard  (20:03):

So like four days ago I posted like a larva video with, uh, one musician that I really liked that is, uh, small, like not really that known. And it's like some, uh, synthesizers, but the larva started to like move really, really quickly at the same time that the, the melody comes in and everyone is saying like, this song was like written for this video. And even I like it, it was a repost, but I couldn't pick any other songs because I was like, this is just perfect. So this larva is really like, and the music together was just like perfect. I also, um, pick, I have like, um, this organism that you see the, the whole big eye. It's a Daphnia so you see it from, uh, the front and you see really this huge single eye. And every time I see it, it makes me, uh, think of, of, uh, Sauron from the Lord of the Ring. So you know, the big tower with the eye. So I put the, the, um, soundtrack of Saruman on top of this video and it was just like, it fits so well.

Liz Roth-Johnson (21:15):

Yeah. I love that second example. It's almost like a little inside joke, you know, Daphnia for those who don't know is a, is a water flea, Right? It's, it's just like a little.

Chloé Savard  (21:23):


Liz Roth-Johnson (21:23):

small little water flea. But, but it does, it has these big funny eyes. And so I love the idea of of equating that to like the eye of Sauron and having the music to go with it.

Chloé Savard  (21:31):


Jennifer Aguirre (21:32):

What advice would you give to maybe a high schooler or, um, freshman college student or any college student who has never used a microscope before but may have some kind of interest in exploring the microverse like you have?

Chloé Savard  (21:45):

Firstly to buy like a cheap microscope, so not get too serious about, about it and like small accessories like, uh, slides and, uh, plastic, uh, pipettes and stuff like this. And just go simple like around your home, like in puddles of water or ponds that are near your, your apartment or house, uh, or, or, uh, or even in your backyard. And just like take it lightly and have some fun with it because it's the, the most important part of doing this. Like, and personally my technique mostly comes from trial and errors and doing some research on the internet on how to improve like, uh, my technique. But it's mostly trial and errors. So, uh, yeah, just have having fun with it and like experiment by yourself and oh, like if I turn this, this happens and I think it's the best way to, to learn and to master something. Uh, and also to be like really patient because sometimes it takes time to really be able to observe, uh, some cool organism.

Jennifer Aguirre (23:05):

Well, uh, Chloe, where can people follow you online and find your work?

Chloé Savard  (23:10):

Uh, I mainly post on Instagram and that's where I like started too, but uh, I'm also posting on TikTok and I try to post on YouTube as much as possible too, but like I'm really starting on YouTube, so it's mainly Instagram, but my work is, uh, on all three platforms.

Jennifer Aguirre (23:30):

And what are your, uh, social media account names?

Chloé Savard  (23:33):


Jennifer Aguirre (23:34):

On all of them?

Chloé Savard  (23:34):


Jennifer Aguirre (23:35):


Liz Roth-Johnson (23:35):

That's the brand.

Chloé Savard  (23:36):

I shotgun the name everywhere, like

Jennifer Aguirre (23:38):

It's copyrighted.

Chloé Savard  (23:40):

No one is gonna take this name.

Liz Roth-Johnson (23:42):

You're the one and only tardibabe.

Chloé Savard  (23:44):


Jennifer Aguirre (23:44):

Nobody else can be. It's been wonderful talking to you Chloe. Thank you for taking some of your time.

Chloé Savard  (23:51):

Yes, I'm so happy.

Liz Roth-Johnson (23:52):

Yeah, thank you so much, Chloe. It's been really fabulous talking to you. Um, and just hearing all about your enthusiasm for the microscopic world.

Chloé Savard  (23:59):

Oh, thank you so much for having me. I'm super happy.

Jennifer Aguirre (24:03):

And that’s our show, thanks for listening! Ever Wonder? from the California Science Center is produced by me, Jennifer Aguirre, along with Perry Roth-Johnson. Liz Roth-Johnson is our editor. Theme music provided by Michael Nickolas and Pond5. We’ll drop a new episode every other Wednesday. If you’re a fan of the show, be sure to subscribe and leave us a rating or review on Apple Podcasts. It really helps other people discover our show. Have a question you’ve been wondering about? Send us an email or voice recording to [email protected] to tell us what you’d like to hear in future episodes.