Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Robert J Olson

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Olson, R.J. and H.M. Sosik, A submersible imaging-in-flow instrument to analyze nano- and microplankton: Imaging FlowCytobot, Limnology and Oceanography: Methods , 2007

A fundamental understanding of the interaction between physical and biological factors that regulate plankton species composition requires, first of all, detailed and sustained observations. Only now is it becoming possible to acquire these types of observations, as we develop and deploy instruments that can continuously monitor individual organisms in the ocean. Our research group can measure and count the smallest phytoplankton cells using a submersible flow cytometer (FlowCytobot), in which optical properties of individual suspended cells are recorded as they pass through a focused laser beam. However, FlowCytobot cannot efficiently sample or identify the much larger cells (10 to >100 m) that often dominate the plankton in coastal waters. Because these larger cells often have recognizable morphologies, we have developed a second submersible flow cytometer, with imaging capability and increased water sampling rate, to characterize these nano- and microplankton. Like the original, Imaging FlowCytobot can operate unattended for months at a time; it obtains power from and communicates with a shore laboratory, so we can monitor results and modify sampling procedures when needed. Imaging FlowCytobot was successfully tested for 2 months in Woods Hole Harbor, and is presently deployed alongside FlowCytobot at the Martha?s Vineyard Coastal Observatory. These combined approaches will allow continuous long term observations of plankton community structure over a wide range of cell sizes and types, and help to elucidate the processes and interactions that control the life cycles of individual species.

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