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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Systematic Entomology Laboratory » Docs » Electron and Confocal Microscope Unit

Electron & Confocal Microscopy Unit

About the ECMU

    The Electron and Confocal Microscope Unit provides ARS scientists and their collaborators access to state-of-the-art equipment, technical expertise, and a broad range of ultrastructural and taxonomic expertise necessary for interpreting and analyzing complex three-dimensional TEM, SEM and Confocal Microscopy data. The ECMU conducts original research related to "National Program 303: Plant Diseases", while also collaborating with ARS scientists on a broad range of other National Program projects in order to maximize the use of the equipment and facility for the benefit of all ARS scientists.
    ECMU is equipped with a broad range of sophisticated microscopes including a new cutting-edge Cryo Scanning Electron Microscope (Cryo-SEM) that enables biological samples to be analyzed in their native state without the chemical artifacts characteristic of conventional SEM. The Cryo-SEM is also capable of freeze fracturing which exposes the  internal anatomy of tissue for SEM analysis and is capable of Energy-Dispersive X-ray Spectroscopy for elemental analyses and mapping the spatial distribution of elements in a sample. The Cryo-SEM and tabletop SEM are both equipped with a variable pressure mode which allows imaging of fully hydrated biological samples under a low-vacuum condition with no preparation. The ECMU is also home to a high-resolution Transmission Electron Microscope (TEM) with a large magnification range from x50 to x200,000 with a resolution of 0.2nm. The Confocal Laser Scanning Microscope (CLSM) is equipped with four lasers which can spectrally detect a range of light from 390-750nm (UV through visible light to IR), and is capable of generating 3D images by optically sectioning through a sample. The Wide Field Microscope is fully motorized enabling the imaging of large format samples in brightfield and fluorescence and is capable of optical sectioning for 3D fluorescence imaging. In addition, we have a full complement of equipment for the preparation of a wide variety of biological sample types.
    The ECMU provides ultrastructural and technical analysis of microscopy datasets and supports the design and presentation of research results.

ECMU Overview Webinar (recorded 21 Mar 2024)

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  Cryo-SEM image of the predatory mite, Stratiolaelaps scimitus feeding on a Root-knot nematode took first place in the 2020 Microfauna photo contest hosted by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) – United Nations (UN) Organization.


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  Coffee Drinking Flat Mite. Cryo-SEM image of a flat mite feeding on the leaf of a coffee plant from Brazil. Award winner of the Microscopy Society of America micrograph competition at Microscopy & Microanalysis 2018 Conference.  


    ARS researchers are encouraged to collaborate with the ECMU staff to maximize the use of the facility. Scientists are expected to present samples ready for observation and cover the cost of consumable items, including liquid nitrogen when conducting Cryo-SEM. Electron and confocal microscopy are both labor-intensive and time-consuming, so please reach out to the ECMU staff several weeks or months in advance of any anticipated microscopy projects for appropriate planning, project development, and scheduling. Due to the complexity, high costs, and large time commitment that's required for electron and confocal microscopy, all sample preparation and imaging will be handled by the ECMU staff.

ECMU Researchers

Andrew Jansen - Research Entomologist

     Andrew Jansen received his Ph.D. in Evolutionary Biology from Arizona State University while working in the Hasbrouck Insect Collection under the supervision of Dr. Nico Franz. Although his academic background was strictly in entomology (B.Sc. - UF) and Curculionid systematics (M.Sc. - ASU), his interest in cuticle microstructure led him to study the evolution and biomechanics of the exaggerated rostrum in the genus Curculio Linnaeus, 1758 (Ph.D. - ASU). As a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Bonn (Germany), he studied the influence of meso-scale cuticle laminate structure on the evolution of head shape in Polyneoptera. His goal as a researcher is to perform systematic study of cuticle layering patterns and to evaluate cuticle microstructure as a phylogenetically-informative character system.
    As a collaborator, Andrew has provided extensive technical support and expertise on interdisciplinary teams, working with researchers whose specialties have ranged from materials science to insect taxonomy. To better meet the needs of visiting scientists and researchers at BARC, his primary interest is to develop new microscopy techniques and sample manipulation devices that will minimize sample preparation time, facilitate high-throughput imaging regardless of preservation method, and avoid destruction of valuable sample material wherever possible.


Andrew Jansen

Electron & Confocal Microscopy Unit
USDA Agricultural Research Service 

10300 Baltimore Ave
BARC-West, Bldg 12
Beltsville, MD 20705

Scanning Electron Microscopes


Cryo-Scanning Electron Microscope 
Hitachi SU-7000 + Quorum PP3010 Cryo Prep System + Oxford X-Max EDS


Tabletop Environmental Scanning Electron Microscope
Hitachi 3030Plus + Deben Coolstage (-30°C to +50°C)

Transmission Electron Microscopes


Transmission Electron Microscope
Hitachi HT-7700


Transmission Electron Microscope
JEOL CX-100 (U.S. National Arboretum)

Confocal and Fluorescence Microscopes


Confocal Laser Scanning Microscope
Zeiss 710 

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Motorized Fluorescence Stereo Zoom Microscope
Zeiss AxioZoom V.16 + Apotome 3: Optical Sectioning

EM Sample Preparation Equipment:


Leica UC7 Ultramicrotome


Pelco BioWave Pro+ 
Microwave Tissue Processor

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Pelco EasyGlow Glow Discharge System


Leica Critical Point Dryer CPD-300


Quorum PP3010T Cryo-SEM Prep System


Lancer Vibratome 1000 Microtome