Harbor Branch Scientists Study Phytoplankton in the Pacific

A team of researchers from FAU Harbor Branch conducted experiments to better understand phytoplankton in the Pacific Ocean.

From left: Dr. Malcolm McFarland, Dr. James Sullivan, Research Technicians Schuyler Nardelli and Nicole Stockley, Dr. Fraser Dalgleish and Dr. Aditya Nayak.

By carin smith | 9/29/2015

A team of researchers from FAU Harbor Branch recently returned from a three week research cruise in the chilly Pacific Northwest. Their work is part of a joint effort with scientists from the Naval Research Laboratories and is sponsored by the Office of Naval Research. The group, led by Harbor Branch research faculty James Sullivan, Ph.D., Michael Twardowski, Ph.D. and Fraser Dalgleish, Ph.D., is deploying a number of novel underwater optical sensors -  including an in-water holographic microscope and a remote laser scattering device called LiDAR - to document orientation of phytoplankton and the effects on the ambient light field.
 The results of this project could be critical to interpreting and understanding bias in light signals in water, which is expected to improve the performance of imaging and laser communication systems. Results could also improve estimates of global phytoplankton productivity from space. Most importantly, a better understanding of phytoplankton orientation in specific flow regimes could also provide a long sought after clue into the evolutionary drivers that have produced such a remarkable diversity in phytoplankton shapes found in the ocean.