Like spirits passing between worlds, billions of invisible beings rise to meet the starlight, then descend into darkness at sunrise. Microscopic plankton’s daily journey between the ocean’s depths and surface holds the key to understanding crucial planetary processes, but has remained largely a mystery until now. A new Stanford-developed rotating microscope, outlined in a study published Aug. 17 in Nature Methods, offers for the first time a way to track and measure these enigmatic microorganisms’ behaviors and molecular processes as they undertake on their daily vertical migrations.
“This is a completely new way of studying life in the ocean,” said study first author Deepak Krishnamurthy, a mechanical engineering PhD student at Stanford.
“The innovation could provide a new window into the secret life of ocean organisms and ecosystems, said study senior author Manu Prakash, associate professor of bioengineering at Stanford. “It opens scientific possibilities we had only dreamed of until now.”
The study co-authors include Hongquan Li, a 2017 Bio-X Stanford Interdisciplinary Graduate Fellow, and Ethan Li, a 2018 EDGE-STEM Fellow.