SEM in the Spotlight: Imaging Invertebrates in Low-Vacuum Mode

SEM in the Spotlight: Imaging Invertebrates in Low-Vacuum Mode

By Ben Zink, Graduate Student, EFB

The following series of micrographs were recorded with the JEOL JSM-IT100 Scanning Electron Microscope under low-vacuum conditions. Traditionally, samples loaded into the SEM are covered with a thin coating of a conductive metal(s) such as gold/palladium or platinum. While this can be advantageous if the specimen is non-conductive and exhibits charging, surface detail can be hidden by the coating if it is too thick. This is where a major advantage to imaging an uncoated sample under low-vacuum conditions appears, chances of an artifact created during sample preparation are reduced. Series A is of a millipede (class Diplopoda), and Series B is of an ant (Formicidae sp.).

SERIES A:  Millipede (class Diplopoda)

milliped fig 1
fig 2
close up of millipede head

SERIES B: Ant (Formicidae sp.)

series 2 fig 1 ant
Ant head
Series 2 fig 2 ant eye
Ant Compound Eye
Ant thorax
Ant thorax
ant 4
Ant petiole

SEM in the Spotlight: Biology of Lichens

SEM in the Spotlight:

Biology of Lichens comes to the Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) Lab

Ben Zink, Graduate Student, EFB

The new JEOL JSM-IT100 SEM at ESF offers many advantages over the previous, outdated model. With ESF being a university with the majority of its research environmentally and biologically related, a main advantage of the new microscope comes with its low-vacuum mode. This method of imaging allows the user to capture images of unfixed, uncoated specimens and is a major advantage when trying to image delicate biological specimens. The low-vacuum mode was demonstrated this semester to the EFB 496 class Biology of Lichens, taught by Dr. Alex Weir. Dr. Weir traditionally brings mycology related courses to the SEM lab as an introduction to electron microscopy and is an advantageous way to bring recognition to the NC-Brown Center. Lichens, being a fragile combination of algae and fungi, were a perfect candidate for a demonstration utilizing the low-vacuum mode. The following micrographs were captured from the lichen samples observed by the students during the demo.

lichen03 Figure 1
Figure 1. Apothecia on the thallus of the lichen genus Physcia. Both mature and developing apothecia observed
lichen01Figure 2
Figure 2. Mature apothecia (Physcia sp.)
lichen02Fig 3
Figure 3. Surface detail of a lichen thallus



Transmission Electron Microscope Image on the new JEOL JEM-2100F

This is an image of a gold crystal taken with the new JEOL JEM 2100F transmission electron microscope. Spacing of the lattice planes in the specially prepared gold crystals is a useful way to test the resolution and image stability of an electron microscope. This is one of the first images taken on our new TEM in Baker Lab at SUNY-ESF.  The spacing in the planes of the crystal is approximately 2Å or 0.2 nm.  An Angstrom (Å) unit is equal to 0.1 nanometer or 10-10 meters.


As many of you know, we received a National Science Foundation Major Research Instrumentation grant to support SUNY-ESF and partner institutions, Upstate MedicalUniversity and Syracuse University with new electron microscopes.  The JEOL JSM IT100LA In Touch Scanning Electron Microscope was installed in January.  The installation of the JEOL JEM2100FE transmission electron microscope is in progress.
The Image shows particles of Bermuda pink sand in low vacuum backscattered electron imaging.

JEOL JEM 2100FE Transmission Electron Microscope TEM

200 kV Field Emission Electron Gun

Elemental Analysis with EDS X-ray

Cryo, STEM, Tomography




JEOL JSM IT100LA Scanning Electron Microscope20170406_145957 copy

Elemental Analysis with EDS X-ray

Low Vacuum Imaging

In-situ Freeze Drying


Stage Navigation System

Our two new electron microscopes were made possible through a grant from the National Science Foundation.  The grant was award to a team of investigators from SUNY-ESF and partner institutions, Syracuse University and Upstate Medical University; Susan Anagnost, Ph.D., N.C. Brown Center Director and Principal Investigator on the grant, Robert P. Smith, M.S., and Ivan Gitsov, Ph.D., of ESF; Stephan Wilkens, Ph.D., of SUNY Upstate Medical University; and Mathew M. Maye, Ph.D., of Syracuse University.  Funding for the microscope is also supported by Empire State Development’s Division of Science, Technology and Innovation (NYSTAR) and the three universities.


The NC Brown Center at SUNY-ESF

Electron Microscopy at SUNY-ESF 1955-2017

History of the N. C. Brown Center for Ultrastructure Studies

by Susan Anagnost

The Electron Microscopy Laboratory was established at the SUNY College of Forestry in 1955 as part of the Wood Technology Department, and was the first facility of its kind in Central New York, with the only transmission electron microscope in the area.  This lab was established through the efforts of Dr. Wilfred A. Côté.

The N.C. Brown Center for Ultrastructure Studies was established in 1972 with the purchase of the center’s first scanning electron microscope.  The purchase was made possible through funds left to the New York State College of Forestry Foundation, Inc. from the estate of Nelson C. Brown.  Nelson Cortlandt Brown was a forester and faculty member from 1912-1917, and from 1921-1951 also served as Department Head of the Forestry department.

In addition to providing a unique research facility with initial focus on wood anatomy and ultrastructure, the center began to offer formal graduate level coursework in Light Microscopy and Photomicrography, Transmission Electron Microscopy, Scanning Electron Microscopy, Anatomy and Ultrastructure of Wood, and Interpretation of Cellular Ultrastructure.  Today we continue to offer graduate coursework as well as an undergraduate minor in microscopy.

Past and current personnel include Dr. Wilfred A. Côté, Dr. Robert B. Hanna, Dr. Susan E. Anagnost, Arnold Day, John McKeon, Linda Bookman, and Robert P. Smith.


1955      First TEM in Central New York, the RCA EMU-3 1955 3B Transmission Electron       Microscope

1957      RCA EMU-3 1957 3F Transmission Electron Microscope

1967      RCA EMU-4A Transmission Electron Microscope

1972      First Scanning Electron Microscope – the ETEC Autoscan SEM

1984      Scanning Electron Microscope ETEC SEM with WDS X-ray

1986      Purchase of the JEOL 2000-EX Transmission Electron Microscope

1997      NSF grant awarded for a Scanning Electron Microscope, the JEOL JSM 5800LV

2015      National Science Foundation grant awarded for a Field Emission TEM and a new SEM

2017      Installation of the JEOL JEM-2100F Transmission Electron Microscope and        the JEOL JSM IT100LA Scanning Electron Microscope with funding from NSF, NYSTAR, ESF, UMU and SU

Scanning Electron Microscope Images of Wood “Cubes”

The image in our blog heading is a mosaic of wood “cubes” prepared by Mr. Arnold Day back in the 1970’s.  These cubes were painstakingly prepared by sectioning with a sliding microtome the three surfaces; radial, tangential and cross section.  Images were then acquired with the ETEC scanning electron microscope.  These were featured on the cover of the book, Wood Structure and Identification by H. A. Core, W. A. Côté and A. C. Day, Syracuse University Press, 1979.

The species from left to right, top row: Red Maple 20X, Western Red Cedar 10X, Red Maple 10X, Yellow Birch 50X, Red Maple 10X; bottom row:  Yellow Birch 30X, Red Gum 50X, American Elm 10X, Red Gum 10X, Douglas-fir 50X.   (X magnification when acquired on the SEM).

mosaic edit crop3 pixels

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