PlanktonPlanet

innovative citizen sailing oceanography

Just discovered this, after reading the Tara Expedition news periodical while visiting Tara in Miami! This is a very interesting Citizen Science project inspired from the Tara Expeditions. The idea is to “recruit” the help of volunteer sailors across the world and have them collect plankton using a very simple method of sample preservation. The sample is then sent to a lab for DNA barcoding to look at the different species present in the sample. A very elegant way to do oceanography.

 

Fig-F-EN

go visit:  www.planktonplanet.org

OSTRICH cruise leg 2 almost done!

We have been zigzagging up and down the Florida Straits for the last two weeks. This photo, from two days ago, shows our ship track (in blue) and drifter track (in red).

RV Walton Smith Tracks

Our first study was the Spatial Study, where we deployed a drifter at the beginning of the day, and then followed it, sampling with ISIIS and MOCNESS in a zig-zag track for the whole day. We started our cruise sampling near Miami and Bimini, Bahamas, and finished up the Spatial Study in the FL Keys.

Photo by Cedric Guigand, taken with a Phantom DJI drone

Research Vessel F.G. Walton Smith during the OSTRICH Cruise, June 2014. Photo by Cedric Guigand, taken with a Phantom DJI drone.

 

In the second leg of our cruise (which concludes tonight), we have been sampling in the Lagrangian Study, which lasted a total of 4 days. We deployed a drifter in the Lower Keys at the beginning of the study and have been following it continuously, sampling with ISIIS and MOCNESS.

The idea is that by following a drifter, we will be continuously sampling the same body of water. Consider this analogy: you are sampling a fast moving stream. If you stand at a fixed point on land and continuously sample, you sample different parts of the stream because it is constantly flowing in front of you. However, if you build a raft and float down the stream with it, sampling along the way, then you are actually sampling the same part of the stream at different points in time. The latter case is what we are doing. The Gulf Stream / Florida Current is our fast moving “stream” and we are drifting with the stream in a fancy raft, sampling along the way.

R/V F.G. Walton Smith, aerial view of the back deck, with ISIIS on board. Photo by Cedric Guigand

Continue following our updates on the ISIIS Facebook page as we conclude our 18-day cruise this week.

Polychaetes: ocean “crawlers”

The name for these worms literally means “many bristles,” which refers to the “legs” that they use to move through the water. These surprisingly fast animals are predators of copepods, appendicularians, and even small larval fishes. Most polychaetes are meroplankton, meaning that they are plankton only for their egg and larval stages. When they reach a certain size, they settle out of the water column and spend their adult lives associated with some kind of substrate (e.g., reefs, sand, mud, rock, etc.). A few species are holoplanktonic, spending their entire lives drifting in the ocean currents.

One genus of holoplanktonic polychaete that we have encountered in the ISIIS images is Tomopteris. These 2-5 cm polychaetes feature several adaptations that are favorable for life in water column. First, they are highly transparent, allowing them to blend into the surrounding water. If they could be easily seen, polychaetes would be tasty little snacks for fish. One thing that limits their transparency is a gut that runs down the middle of the body. When this gut is full, the polychaete is easier to see because it cannot hide a stomach full of food! Someone might hypothesize that polychaetes that have recently eaten might be more susceptible to visual predators, such as fish, but to date, no one has explored this question. Second, their “legs” have paddle-shaped ends with two lobes, which improve their swimming ability compared to other groups of polychaetes (Todd et al. 1996).

AllPoly

Many of these polychaetes (Tomopteris spp.) are actively swimming. The gut runs down the center of the animal between the legs, but it is difficult to see in these images.

Although polychaetes are relatively rare plankton, we did manage to see a good number of them near Stellwagen Bank, Massachusetts, USA. The graph shows the vertical distribution of the Tomopteris polychaetes along two ISIIS transects. As you can see, Tomopteris polychaetes were predominantly found in deeper waters. In the images taken, it is difficult to see the gut, which would show up as a white line running down the middle of the body. This means that these individuals had not eaten recently, so what are they doing in the deep waters? Possibly hiding from predators in waters with less light? Or could this behavior be related to mating? Only with further research can we find out what influences the distributions of these and other planktonic animals.

PolyProfs

Near Stellwagen Bank, Massachusetts, USA, many of the polychaetes tended to reside deeper in the water column. They are virtually absent from the top 20 m.

Unidentified polychaete larvae imaged by ISIIS in the Gulf of Mexico

Unidentified polychaete larvae imaged by ISIIS in the Gulf of Mexico.

References:

Todd CD, Laverack MS, Boxshall GA (1996) Coastal Marine Zooplankton: A practical manual for students (2nd ed.) Cambridge University Press, New York.

Great plankton pictures taken offshore Miami

Here is a nice collection of plankton underwater shot  by Dr. Evan D’alessandro while conducting research offshore Miami

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the Portuguese Man of War is not a Jellyfish but a Siphonophore!

The Portuguese Man of War or Physalia is a siphonophore floating at the surface of the ocean like a drifting balloon with deadly tentacles waiting to capture careless preys. Its body looks like a sail that catches the ocean wind to propel itself.

More Information on Physalia

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Portuguese Man of War Fish

The Portuguese Man of War Fish or Nomeid seems to be immune to the powerful sting of the Physalia. It is actually a very agile swimmer that can avoid the stinging tentacles.It uses this deadly siphonophore for shelter against predators and can also feed on some of the smaller tentacles that do not seems to have a strong sting.

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Nice ctenophore

Our favorite, the Venus Belt! Nice to see this one in color!

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salp chain

If you click on the this amazing picture you will see a small fish larvae seeking shelter among the salps. very neat!

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ctenophore bloom

Beautiful bloom of lobate ctenohphores. The wall of death some smaller plankters:)

 

Undergraduate research: Jenna Binstein

Greetings plankton enthusiasts, new and old! My name is Jenna Binstein and I recently graduated from undergrad at the University of Miami. I enjoyed my time there so much though, that I signed on for another year as a graduate student! Part of what made my undergraduate years so fulfilling and worthwhile was my work in the lab with Dr. Cowen, Jessica, and the rest of the ISIIS/plankton team. Before I go into more detail about my work there, let’s take a quick look at how I found my way into the marine sciences.

Jenna Binstein

It all started when I got my SCUBA certification as a freshman in high school. After my first open water dive I was hooked. I knew I had to learn all there was to know about marine science. At first, I thought I wanted to study the “big” stuff: dolphins, sharks, or turtles. I had seen jellyfish on SCUBA dives before, but I always considered them pests. I never thought as I applied and enrolled at UM that I would find such passion in studying some of the smallest organisms in the ocean, and learn just how important and collectively “big” they actually are.

Basically, my journey with plankton started when I met Jessica and Adam and began helping them with their respective dissertation research. I started learning to identify zooplankton, just as you all are learning to do via Plankton Portal! I started getting comfortable with the images from ISIIS, and eventually began to develop my own interest and senior thesis project with mentorship from Jessica. I decided to begin looking more closely at Appendicularians. Very little is known about these guys and their unusual mucous housing. So I spent a long time quantifying Appendiularians by size, classification, and whether or not they were inside a mucous housing when I saw them. The goal was to be able to identify an existing relationship between depth and whether or not an Appendicularian was found in its housing. I briefly looked at other factors as well, such as frontal dynamics, size, and classification and then saw if these related to an Appendicularian being in or out of its house. Although I completed my senior thesis, the work is not over; as there is still so much more I can pull from the data! Yet overall, I learned so much about Appendicularians and their role in the oceans, and I will definitely share as much of that as I can with all of you on some later blog posts relating specifically to the Appendicularian. In the meantime, I hope to continue learning all I can about Appendicularians and other gelatinous zooplankton during my time with the help of ISIIS, Plankton Portal, and UM.

Until my next post, happy jellyfishing everyone ≡≡D

Jenna

Jenna Binstein, B.S.M.A.S., is a student in the Masters of Professional Science program at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (RMSAS), University of Miami. You can reach her at jbinstein [at] rsmas.miami.edu.

The push to 200,000!

Once again, we come on here thanking all of you immensely for your efforts in classification on this blog! We have nearly reached 200,000 classifications!!
We are at (drumroll please) 191,736 classifications!

Will you help us meet 200,000?

Team introductions

We thought you’d like to know who are the scientists behind this project. So – here are a few introductions.

My name is Jessica Luo, and I am starting my fourth year as a Ph.D student at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences. My research is on small gelatinous zooplankton (jellyfish and relatives) around fronts, and their vertical migration patterns. The research from this dataset forms part of my dissertation, so I’m really excited for Plankton Portal and the Zooniverse team. I recently moved from Miami to Newport, Oregon to be part of the new lab at Oregon State University. Here I am on a recent research cruise in the Mediterranean Sea:

Jessica on the Resaerch Vessel Tethys II, off the coast of France

Jessica on the R/V Tethys II this summer in the Northern Mediterranean



Adam Greer is a senior Ph.D student in our lab who’s about to defend soon. His research focuses on thin layers of zooplankton in coastal environments. He studies aggregation and the spatial relationships of organisms using ISIIS. He just got a very nice article published by the Journal of Plankton Research and made the cover! Congrats on all these achievements.

Adam scuba diving in the Caribbean

Adam scuba diving in Belize, 2011



Cedric Guigand, senior research associate in University of Miami and Charles Cousin, ocean engineer and CEO of Bellamare are the designers and developers of ISIIS. Their main contribution is to invent and built the crazy instruments that the scientists (i.e. Bob) come up in their wildest dreams! Not always easy… but always exiting! They also spent quite a bit at time at sea all over the world to help the group collect data and make sure the instruments are working well.

Adam (left) and Cedric (right) on a random friday afternoon in the lab: playing trombone

Adam (left) and Cedric (right) on a random friday afternoon in the lab: playing trombone.

Charles Cousin

Charles Cousin



Ben Grassian is a senior thesis student in our lab. He recently graduated from the University of Miami and his senior thesis was on the temporal and spatial distribution of ctenophores in San Diego. He spent an enormous amount of time identifying plankton images that helped us design the benchmark library we provided you to analyze the Plankton Portal data.

Ben_Grassian

Dorothy Tang is a research technician working on the identification of organisms in ISIIS images. Her everyday life is surrounded by plankton–looking for them, identifying them, and charmed by them. In her words, “ISIIS opens my eyes on plankton (especially zooplankton). As I learned more about different kinds of zooplankton–jellyfish, siphonophore, appendicularians and their houses, ctenophores, larval fish, etc., I appreciate them more.”

Dorothy in the Lab

Dorothy in the Lab



And the head honcho – Bob Cowen is the mastermind behind the whole lab and the one who motivates, guides and keeps us all in line. He dreamed up the concept of ISIIS over a decade ago while trying to catch rare fish larvae with nets in the Caribbean. He is now the Director of Oregon State University‘s Hatfield Marine Science Center – and enjoying life on the west coast.

Bob on a recent cruise in the Mediterranean, examining a plankton net tow

Bob on a recent cruise in the Mediterranean, examining a plankton net tow

So that’s us! You can find Plankton Portal on Facebook, Twitter or Google Plus, or visit our Lab Facebook Page. Tweet us or message us any questions you may have, or even just to say hello!