Advanced Technologies and Unmanned Systems for Tracking Phytoplankton Dynamics on the U.S. West Coast
We use advanced technologies and unmanned systems to collect and quantify phytoplankton and its toxins.
What We Do
We use advanced technologies and unmanned systems to collect and quantify phytoplankton and its toxins. These technologies provide critical information to support fisheries management, ecosystem modeling and assessment, and provide early warning of harmful blooms.
Phytoplankton are the base of most marine food webs, providing over half the world’s oxygen while mitigating climate change effects. Some phytoplankton are very nutritious for organisms higher in the food web, whereas others produce toxins that harm other organisms and fisheries. It is difficult to access marine environments and often prohibitively labor-intensive and costly to track phytoplankton using traditional methods.
Environmental Sample Processor, ESP
The Environmental Sample Processor (ESP) is a biological sensing system that automates the in situ collection, concentration, and analysis of phytoplankton and their toxins from seawater samples. The ESP applies molecular probes to detect target analytes and transmits results to onshore operators in near real-time. This unmanned system can also preserve and archive samples for post-deployment analyses using powerful, laboratory-based sequencing technologies (see eDNA below).
Environmental DNA, eDNA
Seawater contains the DNA of marine organisms and provides a signature of organisms that are hard to sample, rare, or recently left an area. Because some of the DNA in seawater is from phytoplankton, high throughput DNA sequencing can provide comprehensive information about microscopic organisms. Next-generation amplicon sequencing uses established databases for taxonomic classifications to analyze seawater samples for microbial community structure.
Imaging Flow Cytobot, IFCB
The Imaging Flow Cytobot (IFCB) is a robotic microscope that automates the in situ monitoring of phytoplankton. The IFCB uses flow cytometric and video technology to capture high-resolution images of suspended particles and transmits them to onshore operators in near real-time. Unlike the ESP, taxonomic identification of images is automated using machine learning algorithms.
An ocean glider called Submaran will be deployed on missions to sample seawater for harmful algal bloom (HAB) cells and toxins. This glider can sample under weather conditions that are too extreme for small boats and allows for an expanded capacity to sample the Juan de Fuca eddy, one of the known initiation sites for HABs off the Washington coast. The Submaran will bring samples back to shore to be analyzed by the Makah Tribe Water Quality Lab, providing real-time data for the Pacific Northwest HAB (PNW HAB) Bulletin and adding accuracy of the forecast.
Stephanie Moore, Northwest Fisheries Science Center
Nicolaus Adams, Northwest Fisheries Science Center
Linda D. Rhodes, Northwest Fisheries Science Center