September 25, 2017, by jicke

Dancing plant root video wins 2017 Nikon Small World in Motion competition

Timelapse footage of a dancing plant root taken by a University of Nottingham researcher has won first prize in Nikon’s annual Small World in Motion Photomicrography Competition.

Daniel von Wangenheim created this timelapse video during his time at the Institue of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria) where he and colleagues were studying how plants perceive and respond to gravity. The video follows the root tip of Arabidopsis thaliana (also known as the Thale Cress) and reflects a time lapse of 17 hours and approximately 4mm of growth.

Growing plants in space

Daniel has recently moved to School of Biosciences at the University of Nottingham to continue this fascinating research and says:“Once we have a better understanding of the behavior of plant roots and its underlying mechanisms, we can help them grow deeper into the soil to reach water or defy gravity in upper areas of the soil to adjust their root branching angle to areas with richer nutrients. One step further, this could finally help to successfully grow plants under microgravity conditions in outer space to provide food for astronauts in long-lasting missions.”

To film the growing root, von Wangenheim and his colleagues, Robert Hauschild, Matyáš Fendrych, Eva Benkova and Jiří Friml, turned a confocal microscope on its side to provide an upright position. They then placed the plant on a rotation stage, with the root between a coverslip and a block of gel and the leaves exposed to the air. They also implemented a lighting system that simulated ideal growing conditions and a day-night rhythm. As they rotated the plant, they observed how the root would bend downwards each time, sensing gravity.

Truly remarkable         

“The aesthetic craftsmanship and the scientific component of this winning video are truly remarkable. Von Wangenheim and his team have really captured the essence of Nikon Small World in Motion,” said Eric Flem, Communications Manager, Nikon Instruments. “As imaging technology continues to advance, it’s videos like this and the rest of our winners that help bring the intricacies of scientific research to the public.”

“I like to show people the beauty of our research, and this competition is a great platform to give insight into what we and other scientists are doing. Sharing this insight beyond the scientific community is very important and can also help inspire young people to explore science,” said von Wangenheim.

The 2017 judging panel includes:

  • Dr. Bob Goldman: Chair, Department of Cell and Molecular Biology, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
  • Robert Krulwich: Radio and television journalist who currently serves as a science correspondent for NPR and is a co-host of the award-winning WNYC program Radiolab.
  • Dave Mosher: Science and technology correspondent at Business Insider with more than a decade of digital, print, video, and photo journalism experience.
  • Dr. Clare Waterman: National Institute of Health (NIH) Distinguished Investigator at the Laboratory of Cell and Tissue Morphodynamics.
  • Eric Clark (Moderator): Research Coordinator and Applications Developer at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory at Florida State University.


Posted in Uncategorized