First Prize Image: Emiliania huxleyi phytoplankton, acquired with a ZEISS GeminiSEM field emission scanning electron microscope. Courtesy: A. González Segura, D. Molina Fernández and I. Sánchez Almazo, University of Granada, Spain

Emiliania Huxleyi Algae – Powerful Carbon Dioxide Regulators

This year’s first prize of the ZEISS Microscopy Image Contest was awarded to Alicia González Segura (middle), Dolores Molina Fernández (left) and Isabel Sánchez Almazo (right) from the Centro de Instrumentación Científica at the University of Granada (Spain) for their visually stunning image of Emiliania huxleyi coccospheres. This alga is considered a ubiquitous species found in almost all ocean ecosystems from the equator to sub-polar regions, and from nutrient rich upwelling zones to nutrient poor oligotrophic waters.

Ms. Segura shares with us the background of this image:

How does this image fit in to your research?

This microphotograph was obtained in the framework of a study on phytoplankton biodiversity from the Alboran Sea in the Western Mediterranean, with particular emphasis on the life cycle of Emiliania huxleyi, which is probably the most abundant eukaryotic microorganism in the oceans. These phytoplanktonic organisms play a major role in the regulation of atmospheric CO2 , ocean acidification and the global carbon cycle. They are omnipresent and critical to life on earth.

Coccoliths are well preserved in sedimentary rocks, where they have been used as age indicators. Furthermore, the distribution and geochemistry of these microorganisms can be used in paleoclimatic studies.

How did you acquire this image?

The image was taken with a ZEISS GeminiSEM field emission scanning electron microscope. The sample was prepared with critical point, in order to get perfect observation and characterization of the diploid phase of this alga.

What about this image stands out to you?

The most outstanding feature of the image is the perfect exposure of the nanostructure of the coccoliths and how they fit to form the three-dimensional appearance of the coccospheres.

People devoted illustrating science are always challenged to make it eye-catching and understandable. It is necessary to look beyond the images to see what is really significant.

Want to see the other winners from the ZEISS Microscopy Image Contest? Discover more images and their creators here.

About the contest

The ZEISS Microscopy Image Contest is a competition held by ZEISS for images taken with a ZEISS microscope. In 2021, the submission phase took place between July 1 – 31. The authors of the top images received three prizes: ZEISS Primostar 3 microscope (1st prize), ZEISS Victory Pocket binoculars (2nd prize) and ZEISS Terra binoculars (3rd prize). With this image contest, ZEISS is celebrating the work of researchers using microscopy in various application fields in the year of the 175th anniversary of ZEISS. Microscope systems, analytics and imaging capabilities all play a role in meeting many of our society’s most pressing challenges related to climate change, energy, health and food. The contest will be taking place in 2022 again.

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About the contest

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