Use of Plankton Imaging Systems to Validate Satellite-Based Estimates of Phytoplankton Size Structure

Hosts: Marco Corrales and Jessica Luo

Marine phytoplankton are responsible for most of the primary production in marine ecosystems, and this primary productivity controls in turn the production of some of the world’s largest fisheries. In addition, phytoplankton regulates atmospheric temperature by accounting for almost half of global carbon dioxide fixation rates. The categorization of phytoplankton into size classes is a useful method to infer functional properties of these communities, since size is directly related to key functional traits such as metabolic, growth and reproduction rates. We are currently developing a plankton size structure database (PSSdb) that will contain information generated from multiple plankton imaging systems, and consequently, include size measurements of phytoplankton plus other planktonic organisms.

The objective of this project is to compare the datasets included in PSSdb to phytoplankton abundance datasets derived from satellite algorithms. This comparison will assess the accuracy of satellite data for inferring plankton size structure, which in turn will bring us closer to producing global estimates of plankton community structure. The intern will have the freedom to compare the accuracy of different satellite algorithms, and depending on interest, perform comparisons of datasets collected in different seasons and/or regions of the world’s oceans.