Nikon Small World Photography Winners 2015

A beautiful closeup of the eye of a honeybee won top honors today at the annual Nikon Small World competition. The contest honors the beauty and technical skill shown in the tiniest parts of our world found through microphotography. Here are the top photographs.

1st Place Winner

Ralph Claus Grimm
Jimboomba, Queensland, Australia
Eye of a honey bee (Apis mellifera) covered in dandelion pollen (120x) Reflected Light

This year’s first place image is both highly topical and stunning: a close-up look at a honey bee eye, with visible pollen stuck to the surface around it. The honey bee crisis continues to grow, as just last week the USDA announced $4 million in assistance for improving food sources for honey bees. The aim of this image is to communicate to the viewer through the eye of a bee how intricate andbeautiful nature is and that we are living in a super-busy high-tech world where an increasing number of people are losing their human identity in a steady decline of art as an important part of our society.

Grimm employed impressive technique to capture this image stack, including over four hours of careful work to mount the eye, set the focus increments, properly illuminate the eye and avoid peripheral smudging during the stacking process. The resulting image is a testament to Grimm’s painstaking efforts.

Australian Ralph Grimm brings the world eye-to-eye with a honey bee in this year’s powerful first place winning image, which features a close-up look at a bee eye covered in dandelion pollen grains. As a high school teacher, self-taught photomicrographer and former beekeeper, the subject matter is near and dear to Grimm’s heart. While colonies continue to dwindle and bee populations disappear, Grimm hopes his image can serve as a voice for this endangered insect that plays such a critical function in pollinating the world’s crops.

2nd Place

Kristen Earle, Gabriel Billings, KC Huang & Justin Sonnenburg
Stanford University School of Medicine, Department of Microbiology and Immunology
Stanford, California, USA
Mouse colon colonized with human microbiota (63x) Confocal

This is an image of the colon of a mouse that was born germ-free, or completely sterile of microbes. T
he Mouse was colonized with a human microbiota, and used DNA probes to label certain taxa, in this case, members of the Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes phyla. The only technique used in this photo is the polarized light (Crossed Polars). This is no easy feat. There are many challenges to imaging the gut microbiota. The mucus layer (green) is not preserved with standard fixatives, and the vast majority of the community is adjacent to this layer and in the fecal pellet contained within the tissue. Much care has to be taken to preserve these features.

Kristen Earle has just completed a PhD in Microbiology and Immunology at Stanford.  For her dissertation, she wanted to get a better sense of the spatial organization of the gut microbiota, because we know so much about the composition of the community, but so little about its physical structure. Microscopy was an obvious choice. She found that she enjoyed the aesthetic component of the research.

3rd Place

Dr. Igor Siwanowicz
Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), Janelia Farm Research Campus, Leonardo Lab
Intake of a humped bladderwort (Utricularia gibba), a freshwater carnivorous plant (100x) Confocal

The image shows an entrance to the trap (or bladder) of Humped Bladderwort (Urticulatia gibba), a
carnivorous freshwater plant.  The bladderwort's trap is one of the most - if not the most - sophisticated plant organs in existence. Several elements of the bladder’s construction are visible in the image, giving some insight into working of this tiny – only 1.5 mm long – but elaborate suction trap.  Igor doesn’t usually work with plant tissue, but found the preparation didn’t seem to be much different from processing insect/invertebrate tissue. To image exoskeleton of an insect he often uses a chitin-binding dye, Calcofluor white and it shows affinity to cellulose.  

Igor is a research specialist at Janelia Research Campus of HHMI working on steering circuit of a
dragonfly. He thinks the relationship between science and art is best described in words of the French
polymath and philosopher of science Jules Henri Poincare: “the scientist does not study nature becauseit is useful; he studies it because he delights in it, and he delights in it because it is beautiful”.

4th Place

Daniel H. Miller & Ethan S. Sokol
Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of
Biology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
Lab-grown human mammary gland organoid (100x) Confocal

The image depicts a mini-organ, known as an organoid, grown from human mammary gland tissue in the lab. The pink stain in the image shows a cytoskeletal protein, actin, while the (often overlapping) green and red stains in the image depict two proteins that mark stem cells. These kinds of images are crucial to his research, as they allow him to determine the location of stem cells in a developing mammary gland. Imaging large, three-dimensional structures stained with fluorescent probes is often challenging. Since the relevant information that they want to collect is not restricted to one plane, they are required to collect a series of images and reconstruct the three-dimensional structure afterwards.

David studies human mammary epithelial development. The mammary gland is a unique organ, in that its development occurs primarily after birth, and in response to hormones. He first started using microscopy as an undergraduate at Brown University in 2007, where he was studying neural connectivity in the developing brains of tadpoles undergoing metamorphosis into adult frogs. Since then he has continued to use microscopy in a number of different research fields, ranging from ovarian cancer research to developmental research.

5th Place

Dr. Giorgio Seano & Dr. Rakesh K. Jain
Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital
Edwin L. Steele Laboratory for Tumor Biology
Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Live imaging of perfused vasculature in a mouse brain with glioblastoma  
Optical Frequency Domain Imaging System

6th Place

Henri Koskinen
Helsinki, Finland
Spore capsule of a moss (Bryum sp.)
Reflected Light

7th Place

Evan Darling
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
New York, New York, USA
Starfish imaged using confocal microscopy (10x)

8th Place

Dr. Tomoko Yamazaki
National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Bethesda, Maryland, USA
Nerves and blood vessels in a mouse ear skin (10x)

9th Place

Dr. Nathanaël Prunet
California Institute of Technology and Dartmouth College, Department of Biology
Pasadena, California, USA
Young buds of Arabidopsis (a flowering plant) (40x)

10th Place

Ian Gardiner
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Clam shrimp (Cyzicus mexicanus), live specimen (25x)
Darkfield, Focus Stacking

11th Place

Rogelio Moreno Gill
Panama, Panama
Fern sorus at varying levels of maturity (20x)
Fluorescence, Image Stacking

12th Place

Hannah Sheppard-Brennand
Southern Cross University, National Marine Science Centre
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Developing sea mullet (Mugil cephalus) embryos (40x)

13th Place

José Almodóvar
University of Puerto Rico (UPR), Mayaguez Campus, Biology Department
Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, USA
Tentacles of a carnivorous plant (Drosera sp.) (20x)
Image Stacking

14th Place

Viktor Sykora
Charles University, First Faculty of Medicine
Prague, Czech Republic
Australian grass (Austrostipa nodosa) seed (5x)

15th Place

Dr. Heiti Paves
Tallinn University of Technology, Department of Gene Technology
Tallinn, Estonia
Anther of a flowering plant (Arabidopsis thaliana) (20x)

16th Place

Charles Krebs
Charles Krebs Photography
Issaquah, Washington, USA
Feeding rotifers (Floscularia ringens) (50x)

17th Place

Dr. David Maitland
Feltwell, United Kingdom
Black witch-hazel (Trichodactylus crinitus) leaf producing crystals to defend against herbivores (100x)
Differential Interference Contrast

18th Place

Roland Gross
Gruenen, Bern, Switzerland
Hairyback worm (Chaetonotus sp.) and algae (Micrasterias sp.) (400x)
Differential Interference Contrast

19th Place

Dr. Richard Kirby
Marine Biological Association
Plymouth, United Kingdom
Planktonic larva of a horseshoe worm (phoronid) (450x)

20th Place

Frank Reiser
Nassau Community College, Department  of Biology
Garden City, New York, USA
Suction cups on the diving beetle (Dytiscus sp.) foreleg (50x)
Image Stacking, Photomerge

See more at Nikon Small World.

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