The beautifully detailed glowing cell walls of these microscopic phytoplankton tell a story of their life history. As these diatom cells grow and divide they create new pieces of cell wall out of silica, the same fundamental compound in glass.
These diatoms, from the California coast, were grown with a fluorescent dye that becomes embedded in the newly formed sections of the cell wall. Using confocal microscopy we can recreate an image of the cell in three dimensions. This gives us a unique view into how different environmental conditions affect the silica content, cell wall thickness and growth rate for individual diatoms. The blue in the image is the dye within the cell wall, the red is natural fluorescence from chlorophyll.