Cosmic miniature worlds

Image: Dr Harry Langford

Have just spent an hour and a half with the brilliant and generous Dr Harry Langford looking at digital images of cryoconites in the lab. His patience is incredible as I try to retrieve biology and chemistry from the recesses of my teenage brain. Showing me different kinds of photo-imaging and explaining methods of preparing and viewing microscope slides, we look at the cosmic miniature worlds of cyanobacteria, algae, snow algae, diatoms (two cells) and the dyed blue, flourescing green and blood red of the cells, silica and strands. Again the two opposing colours of bluegreen and redorange dance on the screen. Like veins or the creases in a bolt of material crushed and released.

The cryoconites are symbiotic colonies of cyanobacteria, algae, fungal matter and the particles of soot and rock they take in and feed off. They can survive the winter and flourish in the summer ice.