Enhanced Oceanographic and Freshwater Research with FlowCAM Imaging Analysis

The study of plankton is at the core of aquatic research across the globe. Phytoplankton characterization – identifying, quantifying, and determining size structure of plankton communities – is critically important to understanding marine microbial food webs, ecosystem function, oceanic carbon structure, and responses to environmental conditions.

Plankton imaged by FlowCAM

FlowCAM – which offers both discrete sampling and continuous, in-situ analysis – gives you the ability to count, capture, and save images of microorganisms in a fluid stream quickly and easily. You can obtain size, shape, fluorescence, and concentration statistics in a fraction of the time required by traditional microscopy.

With the FlowCAM, you capture high resolution, microscopic, digital phytoplankton images that are instantly analyzed by the system, giving you up to 30 different measurements in real-time. The FlowCAM primarily uses morphological and gray-scale differences in algal cells to characterize each species. But with its fluorescence capabilities, you also have access to spectral data like you would get from a flow cytometer to further discriminate algal cells. All this happens at a very rapid rate - typically up to 10,000 images/minute. VisualSpreadsheet analysis software allows you to sort, filter and classify particle images interactively – and even automate the classification process.

FlowCAM lends itself to numerous aquatic research applications, and is available in a variety of flexible configurations to meet your specific research needs, including phytoplankton and zooplankton classification, freshwater research, continuous monitoring, identifying harmful algae blooms and algal bloom warnings, ballast water monitoring, and studies on community structure.

Aquatic Research Customer Profiles

Tara Oceans Project

Studying the effects of increasing levels of CO2 in the earth's atmosphere on microscopic plankton

FlowCAM on Tara ShipTara is a 36-meter twin-masted sailing vessel built for extreme conditions. It’s goal? To investigate plankton and coral ecosystems from the perspective of climate change. Since plankton are responsible for absorbing half of the CO2 produced worldwide and producing oxygen on enormous scales, their fate is critical to the overall planet's health.

A FlowCAM is installed onboard - and helps scientist continuously monitor and collect data as they circumnavigate the world. The Tara Oceans FlowCAM was successfully set up, calibrated, and first operated at Station 18 off Malta, and FlowCAM samples were run on all subsequent 153 stations during the two and half year journey.

Visit the Tara Oceans Project website to learn more.

Colby College LakeSmart Study

Characterizing Freshwater Plankton Communities to Determine Impacts to Shoreline Development

FlowCAM at Colby College Studying Freshwater AlgaeResearchers at Colby College formed an interdisciplinary collaboration with the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), local lake associations, and the University of Maine system to explore the impact of landscape and lake ecosystem changes caused by development in central Maine. This diverse team aims to investigate how implementation of best management practices (BMPs) by shoreline property owners, especially those awarded the Maine Department of Environmental Protection LakeSmart Certification, affects abiotic and biotic characteristics of riparian and littoral habitats.

Colby faculty Dr. Catherine Bevier, Chair of the Biology Department, and Dr. Russell Cole of the Environmental Studies Program led an effort to characterize plankton communities in relation to shoreline development and compliance with the LakeSmart Program. Students and faculty collected samples from plankton tows along undeveloped shoreline, developed shoreline with LakeSmart buffers, and developed shoreline without buffers. A FlowCAM was used to analyze the plankton samples. Being able to describe the composition, diversity, and abundance of plankton communities in each of the sample areas provides feedback to lake associations and landowners about the impacts of shoreline development.

Learn more at the Maine DEP's LakeSmart webpage.

University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography

Monitoring Ecosystem Function through Assessment of Phytoplankton Species Identity and Biomass

RI GSO Student collecting plankton for long-term plankton monitoring studyResearch in the Menden-Deuer lab at the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography aims to improve understanding of plankton and their function in the environment. Predator-prey interactions are the central topic. Species-specific differences are important for ecosystem function, including food web dynamics and biogeochemical cycles, however assessment of species identity and biomass is limited by how many plankton samples can be processed.

A number of studies will be undertaken to better understand factors contributing to the variability in the magnitude of grazing rates by zooplankton and their impact on phytoplankton production both in Narragansett Bay and in the open ocean. Such studies demand careful examination and quantification of prey and predator species composition and biomass, which the FlowCAM can facilitate.

Strombidium spp ciliates oligotrich

Keep reading about the FlowCAM Projects at URI on our customer profile page >>

See more FlowCAM images in our Algae Image Galleries!

Go to Marine Microorganisms Gallery >>

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