Role of microzooplankton in coastal ecosystems: viewing windows of opportunity
2010-2013 - $159,860
Department of Oceanography
Texas A&M University
Harmful algal blooms (HABs) are a growing concern for human and ecosystem health, yet the mechanism of bloom initiation is not well known. Patterns in microzooplankton abundance will be examined to determine if “loopholes” in grazing pressure can be linked with HAB occurrences. Plankton cell abundances will be determined using the Imaging Flow Cytobot, a new instrument combining video and flowcytometric technology to capture high resolution (approximately 1 micrometer) images. Subsequently, image processing developed for phytoplankton will be extended to microzooplankton taxa so that automated classification can be used to quantify individual categories. Grazing impact experiments will provide specific growth and grazing rates, which in combination with abundance data will provide basis for evaluating the opportunity for algal blooms. Deployment of the Imaging Flow Cytobot at the University of Texas’ Pier Laboratory in Port Aransas, Texas, began in September 2007 and will continue as part of the Mission-Aransas Estuarine Research Reserve to provide data for this project. Observed relationships between microzooplankton and HAB species together with the patterns in population dynamics will be employed in developing predictive indices for early warning of HAB events in the Gulf of Mexico. Dissemination of data will include developing a website for Texas plankton images and using this reference in hands-on training of stakeholders such as the volunteer groups Red Tide Rangers and Texas Master Naturalists, who participate in HAB monitoring for Texas.