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Super magnifying glass for examining marine microorganisms

Super magnifying glass for examining marine microorganisms

Marine researchers are tracking microorganisms with a new super magnifying glass

From now on, scientists at the GEOMAR Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research Kiel are on the trail of the small organic particles and organisms of the oceans with a real super magnifying glass. The new "confocal laser scanning microscope" enables researchers to gain new insights into the marine microcosm of bacteria, unicellular algae and oar crabs, according to the Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research.

According to the researchers, the importance of small organic particles and organisms for the ocean's food webs and the global carbon cycle has long been known. "However, many of the processes involved are not yet understood in detail," explained Professor Dr. Anja Engel, head of the research area "Marine Biogeochemistry" at the Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research in Kiel. According to the expert, the organic particles and small organisms such as bacteria, unicellular algae and oar crabs play an extremely important role “in the ocean's food webs, in the global production of oxygen or in the binding of carbon.” With the help of the new special microscope their importance for the material and energy flows in the oceans can be better analyzed in the future.

Special microscope provides new insights into the organic carbon cycle of the oceans The 200,000 euro confocal laser scanning microscope can “display the examined structures in three dimensions in detail with a resolution of a few hundred nanometers”, according to the Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research. The microscope creates sharp and detailed images of optical sections through the specimens, whereby precise three-dimensional representations can be made from a series of images, ”explains Dr. Jan Michels, marine biologist at the Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research in Kiel. For the time being, the scientists want to use the special microscope primarily for the analysis of so-called gel particles, which arise from dissolved organic substances and play an important role in the organic carbon cycle of the oceans, according to the current report.

Marine microcosm under the magnifying glass Little is known about the precise composition and availability of the gel particles, explained Prof. Engel. According to the expert, the new microscope will “make it possible to directly investigate the structure, the biochemical composition and the microbial colonization of individual gel particles.” In this way, the researchers can go further into the marine microcosm than before, explained Prof. Engel. In addition to examining gel particles, the new microscope also offers many other questions about the marine micro-world. "The more we learn about marine microorganisms, the more we recognize the importance they have for the climate and the health of the oceans, and ultimately for us as well," emphasized the head of the research area "Marine Biogeochemistry" at the Helmholtz Center for ocean research in Kiel.

The acquisition costs of around 200,000 euros for the new special microscope were financed by a grant from the Helmholtz Association for excellent scientists to Professor Engel. (fp)

Image: Dieter Schütz / pixelio.de

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