Kate Solbakk


Root microbiome

The surface of a plant's root is a hub of activity in the soil. Plants are known to feed (and feed on) microorganisms, and can actively influence the composition of the microbial community around them.

For this illustration, I wanted to focus on the metropolis of organisms covering the surface of a root. There are many layers of bacteria and fungi woven together, and small protozoa hunting for snacks in and around the biofilm structures.

When I drew this, I relied mostly on my understanding of life in the rhizosphere based on reading, and also studied scanning electron images of roots and biofilms, but I didn't think I'd be able to actually find a scene like this in my own microscope. At the time I didn't know it was possible to observe living roots in the microscope, and any roots I did see were either prepared slides or shredded fragments that happened to come up in soil samples.

Eventually I did start making living root slides, and was absolutely thrilled to see clusters of microorganisms attached to the root in precisely the same way I had imagined in the illustration. That was one of the most satisfying moments I've had at the microscope, and this might be the illustration I'm most proud of!

The surface of a plant root in the microscope.

If you like this artwork, you can order a print of it here or support me on Ko-fi. For inquiries about DIY prints, licensing, commissions, collaborations or just to share enthusiasm about microbes, please email post@mikroliv.no, or send a message on Instagram. I love hearing from you!