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Picture Perfect Plankton

November 6, 2006

The Large Area Plankton Imaging System, or LAPIS, is providing biologists with a new tool to study plankton to depths of 500 meters (1,640 feet). Until now, fragile gelatinous animals have been damaged or destroyed by nets, which animals can detect and avoid, and distributions over large areas are integreated, so scientists can not accurately determine the behavior, orientation or interaction of animals that survive the sampling process.  LAPIS, developed  by WHOI biologists and engineers, is towed slowly through the water at two knots,  projecting a thin frame of light to capture clear images of “jellies” and other small animals and providing depth, temperature, salinity and other data about the environment in which the image was taken.