Deployment of a video plankton recorder at the Martha’s Vineyard Coastal Observatory: Quantification of top-down controls on phytoplankton dynamics observed with Imaging

Heidi Sosik, Biology
Dennis McGillicuddy, Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering
Scott Gallager, Biology


Project Funded 2008:

Many aspects of how physical, biological and chemical processes interact to regulate natural plankton communities remain poorly understood, in large part because traditional organism-level sampling strategies are not amenable to high frequency, long duration application. It is well recognized that innovative observing capabilities are needed to overcome this limitation; however the appropriate technologies are demanding and can be viewed with skepticism by reviewer communities. We propose to build upon existing strengths at WHOI to make substantive progress in the difficult area of multi-trophic level time series observations in the plankton, thus setting a competitive edge for future hypothesis-driven external proposals.

We will take specific advantage of the capabilities of the Martha’s Vineyard Coastal Observatory (MVCO). Our goals for this project are motivated directly by on-going work at MVCO investigating seasonal and interannual variability in the phytoplankton community, through use of automated, submersible flow cytometry. Early results from this work emphasize unexpected patterns of species succession, patterns which may be regulated by species-specific grazing pressure. Concurrent time series observations of zooplankton composition are theobvious way to evaluate this idea. We believe Video Plankton Recorder (VPR) technology can meet this need.

Our Overall Goal is to investigate the role of top-down controls on fall and winter diatom blooms on the New England Shelf by complementing on-going phytoplankton time series with assessment of taxonomically resolved zooplankton abundance. Our Specific Objective is to carry out several deployments of a VPR along side the automated flow cytometers FlowCytobot and Imaging FlowCytobot already at MVCO. The Expected Outcome of this work is demonstration of capability and support for hypotheses to motivate NSF and other agency proposals to sustain longer plankton time series and vertically resolved sampling.