A new microscope: how improved technology is making our work easier

Imaging specialist, Jean-Claude Stahl, has been getting to grips with our new microscope which can take incredibly sharp pictures of shells as tiny as a grain of sand.

Jean-Claude inspect some specimens under the new microscope, 2016. Te Papa.

Jean-Claude inspects some specimens under the new microscope, 2016. Te Papa.

Being able to take high quality, close-up images, is an important part of our scientist’s role in documenting species from the natural environment. With older technology, this was no easy feat.

When taking pictures of very small specimens, depth of field becomes too shallow to cover the whole object. One way around this is to scan an object by taking multiple images from top to bottom, and then combine these images using specialized software – a very time consuming process called ‘image stacking’. It could take between 20–40 minutes to produce just one image with this method.

To the left you can see a tiny shell a 10 cents coin. On the right is the stacked photograph the microscope produced of the same shell

To the left you can see a tiny shell (Leptaxinus cookianus) on a 10 cents coin. On the right is the stacked photograph the microscope produced of the same shell. This particular shell came from Cook Strait at 60m depth. 2016. Photographs by Jean-Claude Stahl. Te Papa.

In order to speed up the process and produce higher quality images, our imaging team now have a new addition, a Leica Z6 microscope and camera.

Using the microscope, the camera can take images of specimens or objects that measure between 1mm and 2 cm, and has the capability to automate and speed up the process by up to five times.

With this new technology, taking sharp images of these tiny shells is made much easier and quicker for the team.

A selection of close up shell images produced with the new microscope using an image stacking process

A selection of close up shell images produced with the new microscope using an image stacking process, 2016. Photographs by Jean-Claude Stahl. Te Papa

4 Responses

  1. Michael Hall

    As always fabulous work from you JC.
    Can’t wait to see more of the tiny world we live in!

    Reply
  2. Jean-Louis Martin

    Wonderful and gorgeous work Jean-Claude, as always you aim for the best.
    Congratulations to Te Papa for making this possible
    Jean-Louis

    Reply
  3. Chrissy

    Wonderful! I love these close view shots that show texture, striations, & gorgeous hues!

    Reply

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