Scanning photomicrograph of a pteropod – a pelagic “sea butterfly,” actually a highly modified snail – Diacria quadridentata

Scanning electron microscopy uses electrons instead of light to view tiny specimens or the surfaces of specimens. It allows researchers to see and photograph their specimens in ultra-high-resolution, making details visible that cannot be seen under a normal light microscope.


The JEOL JCM-5000 Neoscope bench-top model scanning electron microscope was installed at PRI in 2010. It has a large chamber, is capable of magnifications up to 40,000X, and is an “e-SEM” (that is, it is less sensitive to moisture and non-conductive surfaces, making scanning uncoated specimens possible). It can accommodate specimens up to 70 mm in diameter, 51 mm in height, and 200 g weight. Although the stage is stationary (does not rotate or tilt while viewing) specialized mount holders are available to achieve desired viewing angles. SEM preparations and scanning are conducted in PRI’s BioLab, which includes a critical point dryer and sputter coater. The microscope is available for use by PRI staff, students, and Research Associates at no charge; outside users may apply to use the device for scientific purposes by appointment with a small user fee. For more information, please contact Dr. Paula Mikkelsen at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. PRI’s SEM was made available through a grant from the National Science Foundation (EAR-0930032).