Winners of the Hilda Canter-Lund 2021 Competition

This award was established by the British Phycological Society in recognition of Hilda Canter-Lund, whose stunning photographs will be known to many members. Her photomicrographs of freshwater algae combined high technical and aesthetic qualities whilst still capturing the quintessence of the organisms she was studying.

Congratulations to all that made the shortlist, the competition was strong this year, and the BPS thanks everyone who submitted images and voted for their favorites.

2021 Winners

Sophie Steinhagen  “Forestal”

Sophie is a researcher at the Tjärnö Marine Laboratory of the University of Gothenburg (Sweden) dedicated to investigating the marine biodiversity of macrophytes and supporting a sustainable seaweed aquaculture in the Northern Hemisphere. During her PhD at the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel (Germany), Sophie investigated the taxonomy of different genera of marine green algae and the impact of environmental factors on their distribution and potential to form blooms. In addition to her work, she has a passion for communicating phycology to a broader audience by showing the beauty and importance of seaweeds and raising awareness for a sustainable seaweed industry. 

 This image displays the stunning beauty of the typical Swedish flora above and below the surface. It gives a complementary picture of the oceanic forests dominated by Fucus spp. and the dense terrestrial Pine forests. Both ecosystems not only contribute important oxygen to the atmosphere, but also provide invaluable habitats for vertebrates, invertebrates and millions of microorganisms.  
The picture was taken at a shallow beach located in the Koster archipelago, Sweden in May 2021 using a GoPro HERO9. The water is about a meter deep.

Gerd Guenther: “Pyrocystis fusiformis

For 34 years I have been working as a farmer and passionate photomicrographer in Düsseldorf, Germany. My special interest lies in researching the biodiversity of aquatic and terrestrial habitats, with a particular interest in phycology. Algae play an essential role in the metabolic cycle of aquatic habitats and the soils that produce our food. For more than 10 years I have worked with the algae collection of the University of Cologne (now at the University of Duisburg-Essen), photographing the microalgae cultures. I am particularly grateful to Prof. Barbara Melkonian and Prof. Michael Melkonian, who made this collaboration possible and continue to support me to this day.

Cultured cells of the marine alga Pyrocystis fusiformisPyrocystis is a non-motile marine Dinoflagellate living in the tropical oceans.  Just like a firefly, Pyrocystis fusiformis is bioluminescent, the cells emitting a blue light when disturbed.  The cells often arrange themselves on the surface of the culture medium and form wonderful patterns.  The culture was obtained from CCAC, Cologne and the micrograph was taken  with a Leica DMLB microscope, using darkfield illumination and a 5x microscope objective, Magnification about 40x. A Canon EOS5D MK2 camera was used to take the image together with an electronic flash.

2021 Shortlisted Finalists

Derek Christie: “Spirogyra

My interest in phycology was sparked after I discovered the book, “Freshwater Algae, their microscopic world explored” by Hilda Canter-Lund and John WG Lund, in my local library. The images in the book were inspirational and soon my main microscopical investigations were of algae. In pursuit of more information about algae, I enrolled on the freshwater algae identification course run by the Field Studies Council at their Kindrogan, Perthshire Site three times. I was very lucky to have Eileen Cox and Elliot Schubert as tutors, both experts in the world of algae. Recently, using skills gained at these courses, I have been assisting in the identification of algae and producing images for a project which is looking at Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS) in Edinburgh. Currently, I am preparing a local exhibition of microscope images of freshwater life (including algae) for COP26 to show how important algae are to the food chain and life on our planet.

This unusual image of the beautiful filamentous algae, Spirogyra, which thrives in a local boggy pond, was created using crossed polarisation filters and darkfield illumination. The cell dimensions are approximately 250 X 100 microns. This particular specimen was collected from Holyrood Park, Edinburgh during a basic algae survey of the various waterbodies in the park. The photograph was taken using a Leitz Ortholux II microscope with dark-field condenser, polarisation filters and a ToupTek E3CMOS20000KPA camera. A Leitz X40 apochromatic objective was used for this image.

Alex Lai Man Chun: “Crown of thorns (Gloeotrichia sp.)”

I have an MRes in microbiology, specifically biofilm research, and an undergraduate degree in biology, both from the University of Portsmouth. I have an interest in microscopy and discovered my passion for algae when I attended an algae identification course at Durham University taught by David John, Brian Whitton and Martyn Kelly. I currently work for South East Water as a Microbiology Analyst, specialising in Cryptosporidium and Giardia, but also performing routine algae tests across our own network and also for external customers. The warm summer weather of the last couple of years helped me in build a library of algae images and descriptions to help with identifications during our routine analyses as well as for training  new analysts in the laboratory.

Gloeotrichia sp. The image was taken using the 10x objective (100x magnification) on an Olympus CKX53 inverted microscope with a Micropix mounted camera and phase contrast illumnation. The colony was found in a lake water sample (Black Swan Lake at Dinton Pastures Country Park, Berkshire, UK) taken as part of a routine algae analysis for a customer in June 2021. The image is a composite image of four stacks taken at different focus levels, combined using the free image software ImageJ. The overall diameter of the colony is approximately 800 µm  (= 0.8 millimetre).

Robin Fales: “Nereocystis in the Salish Sea”

Robin Fales is a PhD candidate at the University of Washington Department of Biology and Friday Harbor Laboratories. She is interested in understanding the responses of foundation species to global change in order to inform conservation and management. Her current research is focused on understanding kelp stressors in the Salish Sea. Previously, she studied rockweed community dynamics and long-term change while obtaining her masters degree at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. She shares her love of algae with her students as a teaching assistant for marine botany and ecology courses and through photos on social media. 

Bull kelp (Nereocystis luetkeana) is the only large canopy forming kelp in the Salish Sea. As seen in this image, the long stipe and pneumatocyst (gas filled float) lay on the surface of the calm water during low tide. This foundation species provides important habitat for fish and invertebrates but is declining in abundance in the Salish Sea. Robin captured this image from a research boat on June 17th, 2021 in the San Juan Islands during a scouting trip to find kelp beds for her dissertation research.

Alisa Mihaila: “Asparagopsis pacman”

My name is Alisa Mihaila and I grew up in Wellington, New Zealand. I completed my undergraduate degree at Victoria University, Wellington; however my fascination for seaweed began during my MSc degree at the University of Waikato, where I am now a PhD student developing methods for cultivating Asparagopsis armata. I spend a lot of my time snorkelling in New Zealand’s beautiful intertidal zone and examining seaweed using various microscopes.  Even after hundreds of hours spent doing this, I continue to be amazed and intrigued.

This image captures a cystocarp (female reproductive structure, i.e. the ‘Pacman’) of Asparagopsis armata releasing its carpospores (i.e. the ‘Pellets’). The cystocarps can be seen with the naked eye and are approximately 1 mm in diameter. Each of the pellets contain hundreds of individual carpospores that grow into the next stage of the seaweed’s life cycle. Image taken under an Olympus BX53 microscope affixed with an Olympus DP27 camera. The photo was taken as part of a collaboration between the University of Waikato (NZ) and SeaForest (Australia), researching the life history of Asparagopsis for aquaculture purposes.