Passion for Diatoms (book extract)
My passion for microscopic creatures started at an early age looking at pond water under my mother’s microscope. When I started a project studying a eutrophic lake in California I needed to acquire skills with the scanning electron microscope. Upon encountering my first diatom from the lake in SEM and seeing its intricate beauty I was hooked! There were almost 100 species of diatoms in our survey. Several were species new to science. Since then I collect diatoms from all over the world (anywhere I happen to travel).
Some of the exciting discoveries made during this journey are from occasional samples with diatoms caught in the process of dividing. Mature frustules consist of two siliceous valves, somewhat like a glass petri dish with cover, and a number of encircling girdle bands. When a diatom divides each daughter cell acquires one of the mother cell’s valves. Then the resulting two cells each must produce a new matching valve. This can occur in as little as 20 minutes. Under the light microscope the early forming valves can be seen as “ghost-like” specimens resembling the structure of mature valves but with less silica. With luck, specimens at varying stages give clues to the sequence that a particular species lays down its silica.
While diatom are beautiful under the light microscope and have been admired since Victorian times; they are even more exquisite when seen by the scanning electron microscope. At high magnification the surface of the glass shells can mimic floral designs. Although fascinating to scientists, diatoms are also nature’s art at its best. My experience is that the rarely seen immature valves often have stunning geometric designs. For example, below is an image of Asterolampra marylandica and two close-ups of the surface of its forming valve at different stages.
Dr Mary Ann Tiffany
Piilevä-taiteilijakirja (Hidden Diatom-artists book)
Published June 2016
Hidden Diatom Artist Book has been published.
Artist Book project based on microscope images of marine and freshwater diatoms in collaboration with Rauma Printmakers. The Artists' Book of fifteen hand-bound pieces has been published. The book includes two original prints from every artist in each book, with an introduction text by Irene Rogan and a text about diatoms by water researcher Dr. Mary-Ann Tiffany (USA). The artists involved are Mari Aspola, Kirsi Kuusisto, Katariina Mannio, Arja Nummi, Meri Pauniaho and Heli Väisänen (Finland).
The Hidden Diatoms book will be exhibited in Printmakers Associations 40th Anniversary Exhibition at the Rauma Art Museum in October 2016 and at Emil Cedercreutz Museum in Harjavalta during the spring 2017. Books can be bought from the Printmakers Studio, Kuninkaankatu 44 Rauma, Finland and in the UK see contact on this website.
Limited Edition Artists' Book
Meet the Printmakers