'C' Food: Hungry Bacteria Devour Carbon From Phytoplankton


This image, submitted by Steven Smriga and Vicente Fernandez of the Environmental Microfluidics Laboratory, shows a time-lapse view of marine bacteria feeding off an ocean diatom.


Vicente Fernandez, Steven Smriga, Roman Stocker
Environmental Microfluidics Laboratory
MIT Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Carbon is a fundamental element of life on our planet. Here, swimming bacteria tracked over time (blue) consume organic carbon from a decaying diatom (silver, 0.1 mm long). The association between such primary producers and decomposers presents a microcosm of the complex biological and chemical interactions that occur in seawater. Microscopy, and the ability to turn images into data, allows researchers to make mathematical models for figuring out how microbe-scale activities can impact the carbon cycle and our global ocean.



Steven Smriga and Vicente Fernandez present the story behind their award-winning image.

You can also view their presentation from the exhibition opening event on March 10, 2015 or watch the image's teaser video on the Koch Institute's Facebook page.