University of Haifa Researcher Helped Develop Powerful Underwater Microscope

The oceans are one of the great undiscovered realms on earth.  Dr. Tali Treibitz of the Hatter Department of Marine Technologies at the Leon H. Charney School of Marine Sciences has helped take a step towards unlocking its mysteries.

Dr. Trebitz was a member of a team at the Scripps Research Institute in California that developed the Benthic UnderMicroscopic Camera Photowater Microscope, which enables scientists to take high quality images of organisms in their natural habitats on the sea bed.

Developed to research corals, the microscope can film the tiniest details of the organisms life, like unique films of species of corals competing. “We are imaging the organism in its natural environment which is very complex and difficult to recreate in the lab,” said Dr.Treibitz.

As coral reefs around the world are declining in size due to human activities a deeper knowledge of the small scale processes causing this demise is required. This microscope has the potential to provide these observations.

It can be easy to forget that coral are animals. Reefs look more like gorgeous marine gardens drifting in a breeze than they do colonies of invertebrates. Thanks to a new microscope — one that works under up to 100 feet of water, capturing tiny objects at high resolution despite the distortion of the sea — you can see these mysterious creatures in a whole new light.

“The ocean influences a lot of our lives,” said Dr. Treibitz, “some people are not aware of the coCoral Up Close Photomplexity and the richness of what is going on out there.”

The revolutionary microscope has been featured in media worldwide, including The New York Times, The Washington Post and the BBC. It consists of shape-changing lens made from a flexible membrane filled with fluid. By applying electricity the shape of the lens can be changed. Focused LED light ensures that the marine life is well lit.

All the equipment was contained in a compact system that could be taken down to the sea floor and operated by a diver. The scientists report that the new microscope will be able to impact upon a diverse range of scientific fields including ecology, physiology, biomechanics, fluid dynamics, marine geology and physics.

The Hatter Department of Marine Technologies is generously supported by longtime United Kingdom supporters of the University of Haifa Sir Maurice and Lady Irene Hatter.

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