Phaeocystis Suspended In a Drop of Sea Water

June 11, 2014

Microlife 041614 SMCC

Photographer: John Stetson and Southern Maine Community College photography class
Summary Authors:
John Stetson, Southern Maine Community College photography class, and Jackie Phillips

June 2014 Viewer's Choice

The photo above shows the unicellular algae, Phaeocystis, suspended in a drop of seawater from Casco Bay off the coast of Maine. Phaeocystis have a big impact on our planet through their emission of sulfurous gases that contribute to the global sulfur cycle and cloud formation. Potentially the greatest impact they have is their contribution as a carbon sink, where carbon is absorbed from our atmosphere.

Phaeocystics also appeared in the March 10, 2014 Earth Science Picture of the Day, “Sea Foam in Saint-Guenole, France,” where they were observed as a polysaccharide gel. When colonies of the algae bloom, they can create sea foam that covers beaches and even low-lying towns.

This image was one of a series of images taken by students at Southern Maine Community College as part of an in-class photography exercise. A phase-contrast microscope was used to provide color to the image of the microlife.