On a recent training visit to University of New England's Center for Excellence in Marine Sciences, a few of us lucky folks were given a tour of the Center's Ocean Clusters which house the student-run Phytoplankton Lab. The Ocean Clusters are a diverse group of student-centered applied research areas spanning from phytoplankton to seaweeds to oysters and mussels and recirculating aquaculture and fisheries ecosystem experiments. UNE just purchased a FlowCam which will be used by many researchers and students to automate and expedite plankton and particulate research.
The students in the Marine Sciences department are quite passionate about their work. We spoke with Emily Volmer, the student lab manager -a Junior at UNE, about her summer research project:
"I looked at interspecific competition between phytoplankton species Dunaliella tertiolecta and Tahitian Isochrysis galbana in nutrient-limited and nutrient-rich environments. Much of the current research on phytoplankton focuses on either single-species cultures or culture compositions in the open ocean, but I wanted to see the specific relationship between two species we routinely culture in the UNE Phytoplankton Lab."
|Algal batch cultures grown at
UNE's student-run phytoplankton lab.
"For this project, I determined cell densities manually by using a hemocytometer (a special type of slide with a grid etched into it) and microscope, and it was a very time consuming process. I only ran 9 different cultures at a time, but it still took me three hours a day just to determine densities for all of them. If I had had regular access to a FlowCam, the density determining process would have been monumentally faster, and I could have run more cultures looking at more species and more nutrient concentrations." (See also Rapid Algae Characterization using Dynamic Imaging Particle Analysis)
Emily is one of the many UNE students and staff who will enjoy and incorporate the FlowCam technology to speed up often tedious microscopy work that has been traditionally used in academic settings.
During a recent training event Drs. Markus Frederich and Steve Zeeman (Dept. of Marine Sciences at UNE) along with their students used the FlowCam technology to capture high resolution images of phytoplankton and zooplankton collected from the local Saco River.
FlowCam with Algae images of samples taken from the Saco River