Embryology Course Image Wins Top Prize in Nikon Small World Contest

Contact: dkenney@mbl.edu; 508-289-7139

By Stephanie McPherson

WOODS HOLE, Mass.—A vibrantly colored image of a turtle embryo taken by two members of the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) community has won first place in the 45th Nikon Small World International Photomicrography Competition. Teresa Zgoda and Teresa Kugler used fluorescence and stereo microscopy during the 2017 MBL Embryology course to capture the winning image in a masterful example of image-stitching. The competition is regarded as the leading forum for showcasing the beauty and complexity of life as seen through the light microscope.

This fluorescent turtle embryo image, captured in the 2017 MBL Embryology course by Teresa Zgoda and Teresa Kugler, has taken the top prize in the 2019 Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition.

This fluorescent turtle embryo image, captured in the 2017 MBL Embryology course by Teresa Zgoda and Teresa Kugler, has taken the top prize in the 2019 Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition.

“[The Small World Competition] is a fantastic contest to share beautiful scientific imagery,” says Zgoda. Their turtle image competed against more than 2,000 other submissions to win the top prize.

“We placed the turtle embryo in a petri dish and autofluorescence was photographed using three wavelengths of light. The final image is a composite of hundreds of images, since the embryo was so large,” says Zgoda.  They captured the images with a Zeiss Discovery v20 stereo microscope and used a technique called image-stitching to produce the final image.

Another Embryology course image drew the judges’ attention:  an octopus embryo taken by 2018 course student Martyna Lukoseviciute and MBL’s Carrie Albertin landed in 19th place.

Both Zgoda and Kugler are passionate micro-photographers, saying it’s a hobby that allows them to explore their dual passions of science and artistic pursuits. Their winning image exemplifies the blend of science and art Nikon Small World aims to bring to the public each year.

When they captured the winning image, Zgoda and Kugler were interns with the imaging company Zeiss, which is stationed at MBL to assist students enrolled in the MBL’s Advanced Research Training courses in using Zeiss microscopes.

The partnership between MBL and commercial vendors of laboratory equipment, including powerful microscopes from Nikon, Zeiss and other companies, is critical to the success of these world-renown courses.

“We are honored to have MBL community members recognized by the Nikon International Small World Competition,” says MBL Director Nipam Patel. “MBL has a long history of being at the forefront of developing new approaches in imaging and applying those methods to biological problems and questions. We are grateful to the commercial vendors who help make that possible.”

The MBL’s inherently collaborative nature has long been fertile ground for scientific progress, and the development and use of cutting-edge scientific technology.

“You are exposed to so much wonderful science at the MBL,” says Zgoda. “The courses they run are so in depth and offer a plethora of different subjects to image.”

“Nikon is a leading brand in photography, and it means so much to me that they chose this image for first place,” she says.

Zgoda and Kugler’s image will be on display at the MBL next summer as part of the Nikon Small World Exhibit, which is shown throughout North America at selected museums and centers for science. The MBL is the only Massachusetts stop on the exhibit tour.

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The Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) is dedicated to scientific discovery – exploring fundamental biology, understanding marine biodiversity and the environment, and informing the human condition through research and education. Founded in Woods Hole, Massachusetts in 1888, the MBL is a private, nonprofit institution and an affiliate of the University of Chicago.