Today I used an $ 80,000.00 fluorescent microscope. I made wet mounts and learned a new technique that keeps the cells from moving around under high magnification, and oil immersion. I started with various samples in micro vials of micro-algae, ciliates, and micro-algae exposed to doses of chemicals that are intended to kill contaminants (ciliates) but not harm algae. We mounted 3 μl of organism of interest and made a wet mount. Then to keep the sample from moving when we looked at it with 100x magnification and oil immersion we put dots of hot plum nail polish on the corners, and then painted around the periphery of the coverslip. (We used colored nail polish so we could see if the polish leaked under the coverslip and into our sample.)

We took some great images, and I am awaiting approval from the lab to post some of them on the blog. Keep your fingers crossed. Some of my favorite images were of diatoms, rotifers, ciliates, cyanobacteria, and fluorescent cyanobacteria. A picture is worth a thousand words so rather than go on and on I will hopefully post a slide show to share with you early next week.

4 Responses to “Microphotography”
  1. Raoul says:

    I love the pictures that you have posted so far!

    Out of curiosity, though, what form of renewable energy do you believe that cyanobacteria will be most efficient in providing? I have heard that they are able to efficiently convert sunlight into chemical energy (biomass, I believe), however, I have also read a couple of articles that state that cyanobacteria can be used to provide electricity. What do you believe will be the ultimate purpose of cyanobacteria and renewable energy production? Chemical energy or electricity? (or maybe a third option that I have not mentioned)

    In addition, I was curious as to the relation between the color of cyanobacteria and their various uses. Usually, when I think photosynthesis, the color green comes to mind, however, I believe that cyanobacteria are blue; does that make them particularly unique or desirable to use an energy source or is it merely circumstantial?

    Thanks for posting the great pictures! I hope there are many more to come!

    • Mr. Chopp says:

      Raoul, Great questions. You are right that cyanobacteria (all photosynthetic organisms) use sunlight to convert CO2 into macromolecules like monosaccharide sugars and then biochemical pathways convert these building blocks into a host of biologically important molecules including polysaccharides (cellulose, starch) and Lipids. The higher the lipid content in a given species the better suited the cyanobacteria, or algae would be to use as a source of bio diesel. Another aspect of renewable energy production is offsetting the green houses gasses produced by combustion. (whether combustion of fossil fuels nonrenewable, or bios diesel renewable) I will do a little more digging to see what I can find about electricity.

      The color question is an interesting one as well. This summer I will be separating pigments in two species of micro algae using thin layer chromatography. I will be able to see what pigments are present in each species. The pigments can have many biomedical(dyes and markers), or nutraceutical beta carotene for instance.

      Cyanobacteria can be either blue-green, or some are red. They have phycoerythrin, and phycococyanin in addition to Chlorophyl A, B, and Beta Carotine. The phycobilliproteins that house the phycoerythrin, and phycococyanin allow the cyanobacteria to absorb light at a broader spectrum than a plant or algae with only Chlorophyl A, and B. I don’t know if there is any connection between pigments and how good cyano’s would be for renewable energy, but I will ask our cyanobacteria guys, and see what they can add.

      • Raoul says:

        Thanks for the quick reply, Mr. Chopp!

        In the spectroscopy graph, however, I see that Chlorophyll A and B peak at ~425 and ~450, respectively. Since those wavelengths represent Violet-Blue and Blue, shouldn’t the cyano’s be a color other than blue since they absorb blue very well, and probably don’t reflect much of it to be seen by the eye?

        Also, out of curiosity, what is the maximum magnification of the fluorescent microscope mentioned above, in the blog post? Is it possible to take pictures of the slides at the magnification?

      • Mr. Chopp says:


        Here is a link to a picture of different species of cyanobacteria. The Absorbance spectra graph that I linked to in my previous post showed the wavelengths of major pigments found in cyanobacteria and algae. It doesn’t refer to how much or what specific pigments are in a given species. Cyanobacteria have Chlorophyll a, phycobilins, B-carotene and xanthophylls. The Blue-Green algae appear more green than blue.

        The microscope can magnify 1000x with oil immersion.

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