Nikon Small World in Motion 2021 winning video shows the symbiotic relationship between termites and microscopic microfauna
Nikon Instruments Inc. today unveiled the winners of the 11th annual Nikon Small World in Motion Photomicrography Competition. This year’s first place prize was awarded to Fabian J. Weston for his visually stunning video of live microfauna in the gut of a termite. These microorganisms found in termites play the essential role of digesting plant-based cellulose such as wood. Whilst contributing to termite nutrition, their most important role is in carbon cycling. Fabian hopes that his video will bring greater public awareness to the essential role all Protists play in every ecosystem on Earth.
Fabian captured this video using a research microscope from the 1970s, utilizing polarized light. He aimed to visually illustrate the symbiotic relationship between termites and these particular protists, to help audiences better understand the unseen role they play in our natural world. Fabian meticulously created an environment with a pH, chemical composition and temperature suited to keep the symbionts alive. These symbionts are difficult to film due to their sensitivity to light and oxygen, and any slight changes to their environment can cause both the insect and the protists in its gut to perish.
The most challenging part of capturing this video was finding the right solution for the creatures themselves,” said Fabian. “I tried a lot of methods, even preparing my own saline solution. They’re very sensitive to oxygen, so I had to remove as much gas from the solution as possible. It was very tricky, and I had to work fast. The video you’re seeing is the result of months of trial and error, a lot of research and perseverance.”
Protists are a wide and highly diverse array of single-celled organisms, but those featured in the winning video have formed a relationship with termites to process the cellulose they eat and help them derive nutrition from it and cycle carbon back into the soil. “Protists, while largely unknown to the general public, are indeed the most abundant creatures on the planet,” said Fabian. “There is a significant gap in our understanding about these termite symbionts and how this unique evolutionary relationship developed with its host, making it well worth exploring and presenting.”
Fabian added, “The beautiful thing is that easy access to modern imaging and the internet has allowed those with an interest in microscopy to share their discoveries globally, across all boundaries of culture, language and age. The world is so small, and we can connect easily with anyone across the globe.” Fabian hopes that his video will spark greater interest in Protists, as well as inspiring and encouraging more young peoples interested in STEM subjects.
“We’re living in an amazing time when we have the ability to capture and share high-quality scientific imagery,” said Eric Flem, Communications Manager, Nikon Instruments. “This year’s winning entry highlights the power that microscopy has to connect like-minded individuals, educate others using engaging visuals, and spread scientific knowledge to the general public”
Second place was awarded to Dr. Stephanie Hachey and Dr. Christopher Hughes for their time-lapsed fluorescence microscopy video of an engineered human micro-tumor forming and metastasizing. In order to capture this video, stromal cells and cancer cells were introduced into a microfluidic platform under dynamic flow conditions and placed into a customized CO2 and humidity-controlled chamber. The platform was imaged every 15 minutes for 10 consecutive days.
The 2021 judging panel included:
- Dr. Nsikan Akpan, Health and Science Editor at New York Public Radio
- Hank Green, Science Fiction Author and Internet Creator
- Robin Kazmier, Science Editor at PBS NOVA
- Dr. Alexa Mattheyses, Associate Professor of Cell, Developmental, and Integrative Biology at the University of Alabama, Birmingham
- Dr. Hesper Rego, Assistant Professor of Microbial Pathogenesis at the Yale School of Medicine
NIKON SMALL WORLD IN MOTION WINNERS
Fabian J. Weston
Protist Lab Films
Microfauna in a termite gut
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Dr. Stephanie Hachey & Dr. Christopher Hughes
University of California, Irvine
Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry
Irvine, California, USA
10-day time-lapse of an engineered human micro-tumor forming and metastasizing. Vessels (red) support the growing tumor (blue).
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Water flea (Daphnia pulex) giving birth to cubs
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Dr. Alexandre Dumoulin
University of Zurich
Department of Molecular Life Sciences
Commissural axons turning in an organized manner just after having crossed the midline of the central nervous system
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Dr. Sachie Kanatani & Dr. Photini Sinnis
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology
Baltimore, Maryland, USA
Infected mosquito salivating fluorescently-labeled malaria parasites
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