With the help of a newly developed underwater microscope, scientists are getting a closer look than ever at the smallest of creatures that roam the depths of the ocean.
Developed by Andrew Mullen and a team of researchers from Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California, the Benthic Underwater Microscope takes microscopy to new depths — quite literally — by enabling scientists to capture images of marine life measuring mere microns in size.
According to its creators, the underwater microscope is capable of working at depths of 100 meters, further down than any specialized microscope has ever been able to reach.
To achieve this, the microscope has been designed within a waterproof housing that holds the internals of the microscope and acts as a mounting point for the dedicated LED array and flexible lens component. The eight-light LED array enables scientists to properly expose the microscopic matter in even the darkest of environments, while the specialized lens makes it easy to quickly bring into focus the marine life.
For processing the images captured with the microscope, researchers attach it to an underwater dive computer, which also acts as the control hub for adjusting the camera and its settings.
Although use of the microscope has just begun, its impact is already being felt by a group of researchers who are documenting the bleached coral reefs off the coast of Maui, Hawaii. Mullen and his team are using it to study how algae is taking over the coral reefs little by little.
By using the detailed images the Benthic Underwater Microscope captures, the team has already discovered that algae first attaches to the bleached coral by attaching itself to specific locations. Through this information and that yet to be discovered, they hope to make a macro impact on the world’s oceans with the help of a microscopic device.