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Fluorescent Turtle Embryo Wins the 2019 Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition
By Ian Bongso-Seldrup, October 22, 2019 @ 11:30 PM (EST)

1st place: Fluorescent turtle embryo

Nope, this image isn’t the product of an awesome black-water dive—it’s the winner of the 45th annual Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition, which showcases the work of “photomicrographers” from around the world.

The mind-blowing image of a turtle embryo, created by microscopy technician Teresa Zgoda and university graduate Teresa Kugler, was captured using fluorescence and stereo microscopy. There was also a whole lot of image-stitching involved, as the specimen—over an inch long—required the compilation of hundreds of pictures to cover the entire creature.

The first runner-up was Igor Siwanowicz for his stunning image of three single-celled freshwater protozoans, while the third place went to Daniel Smith Paredes for another image of an embryo, this time of a  developing American alligator.

Find out more in the press release below.


The winners of the 45th annual competition showcase a spectacular blend of science and artistry under the microscope.

Nikon Instruments Inc. today announced the winners of the forty-fifth annual Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition. First place was awarded to microscopy technician Teresa Zgoda and recent university graduate Teresa Kugler for their visually stunning and painstakingly prepared photo of a turtle embryo. Captured using fluorescence and stereo microscopy, the colorful final image is a masterful example of image-stitching.

Image-stitching is an imaging technique that required the 2019 winning pair to stack and stitch together hundreds of images to create the final image of their turtle. Adding to the challenge was the size and thickness of the turtle embryo. Creating the final image required precision, patience, and deep imaging expertise, as the organism’s size meant only very small parts of the turtle could be imaged on the focal plane at a time.

Both Kugler and Zgoda are passionate photomicrographers, saying microscopy is a hobby that allows them to spend time on their dual passions of science and creative pursuits. Their winning image perfectly exemplifies the blend of science and art Nikon Small World aims to bring to the public each year. Zgoda currently resides in Boston, Massachusetts, Kugler in New York.

“Microscopy lets us zoom in on the smallest organisms and building blocks that comprise our world – giving us a profound appreciation for the small things in life that far too often go unnoticed,” said Kugler, “It allows me to do science with a purpose.”

“We are inspired by the beautiful images we see through the microscope,” added Zgoda, “It’s humbling and deeply fulfilling to be able to share that science with other people.”

“The Nikon Small World competition has been bringing stunning scientific images to the public for 45 years now,” said Eric Flem, Communications Manager, Nikon Instruments, “Our goal has always been to show the world how art and science intersect. As new imaging and microscopy techniques develop over the years, our winners showcase these technology advances more and more creatively. First place this year is no exception.” Second place was awarded to Nikon Small World veteran Dr. Igor Siwanowicz for his composite image of three single-cell freshwater protozoans, sometimes called "trumpet animalcules.” He used confocal microscopy to capture the detail of the cilia, tiny hairs used by the animals for feeding and locomotion.

In third place is Mr. Daniel Smith Paredes, who placed for his image of a developing American alligator embryo. He snapped this photo at around 20 days of development using immunofluorescence and is studying the development and evolution of vertebrate anatomy.

In addition to the top three winners, Nikon Small World recognized 86 photos out of thousands of entries from scientists and artists across the globe.

The 2019 judging panel included:

  • Dr. Denisa Wagner, Edwin Cohn Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and the head of the Wagner Lab at Boston Children’s Hospital.
  • Dr. Rita Strack, Senior Editor at Nature Methods.
  • Tom Hale, Staff Writer at IFLScience.
  • Eric Clark (Moderator), Research Coordinator and Applications Developer at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory at Florida State University.

To view all the winners, click here.

2nd place: Depth-color coded projections of three stentors (single-cell freshwater protozoans)

3rd place: Alligator embryo developing nerves and skeleton




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