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Scientific Tools Used in Biology

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Biology is the study of living organisms--how they interact with each other, their environment and how they evolve. Examples of the biological sciences include botany, zoology, genetics and ecology. Biologists work in fields such as education, research, health care, conservation, biotechnology and business. No matter what type of biologist you are or in which sector you work, there are several tools common to the biological field.

Light Microscope and Microscope Slides

Light microscopes, also known as optical microscopes, are one of the most basic tools biologists use. Light microscopes use several lenses and visible light to magnify small specimens being studied in a biological lab. Such specimens may include organisms as small as bacteria or as large as samples from bodily organs. Samples are placed on thin sheets of glass known as microscope slides, usually with some form of liquid ideal for preserving the specimen and aiding the biologist's ability to study the specimen using the microscope.


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Forceps look similar to tweezers. Forceps are primarily used to retrieve samples from organs or tissue, or to place samples on microscope slides.


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Scalpels are small instruments that are often four to five inches in length, and they have a sharp blade at one end. Scalpels are used during dissection to cut tissue or organs.

Petri Dish

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Petri dishes are shallow dishes with lids that are made from either plastic or glass. They are used to culture cells, preserve or grow samples or observe microorganisms.

Centrifuge and Microcentrifuge Tube

Centrifuges are used to spin samples in an attempt to separate or isolate solid elements from liquid elements of the samples. Such samples may include blood, cells or cell organelles. Microcentrifuge tubes, commonly referred to as Eppendorf tubes, are the containers used to hold and store the samples. They are short tubes with a tapered end and attached cap on top.


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Pipettes are small glass or plastic tubes used to transfer liquid samples.


Incubators are primarily used by microbiologists to control any necessary environmental factors that may impact the samples that the microbiologists are growing and studying. Such environmental factors include temperature and humidity.


Though usually used by chemists, biologists also use beakers--a plastic or glass container used to store solutions used in biological experiments. Beakers are also ideal to mix solutions in.


A buret is a long and thin cylindrical object with an open top and a stopcock at the bottom. Measurement labels run along the length of burets. Liquids are poured into the open top of burets and can be released through the stopcock at the bottom. Burets are used when a precise amount of liquid needs to be used.



  • "Biology: Concepts and Connections"; Neil A. Campbell et. al.; 2006
  • "Investigating Biology Lab Manual"; Neil A. Campbell et. al.; 2007

About the Author

Marguerite Lance has been a professional writer for seven years and has written for museums, hospitals, non-profit agencies, governmental agencies and telecommunication companies. Her specialties include nutrition, dietetics and women's and children's health issues. Lance received a Bachelor of Arts in biological anthropology from Idaho State University.