Friday, February 8, 2013

FTV 2/8/2013 MSEP Plankton Tows

 Today I was able to catch Dr. Jaroslow (MSEP Instructor) and Meg (MSEP Training Rate) class on their way to do a plankton tow. It is difficult to find the perfect time to do a tow because the ship has to be going very, very slowly and the setup is  time consuming so the timing must be right.

Dr. J only goes through the process of slowing down the ship when the MSEP class is in need of new samples. So, we headed up from the classroom to the stern of the ship to prepare for today's tow. The net was tied to a long line, and once we were sailing at approximately one knot, Dr. J released the net, and tied the line to one of the bits on the stern.

We watched  the plastic container on the net bobbing up and down in the waves as the net skimmed the subsurface of the ocean.  Out on the HELO deck I noticed some cadets on the with fishing lines out, waiting for a bite. After thirty minutes of towing Dr. J began to pull the line and hoist the net.

plankton tow sample
The MSEP students collected the sample and returned to their classroom to look at the plankton under the microscopes. In their samples they found lots of squid larvae.          


squid lavae

The MSEP students sample consisted of Plankton which are microscopic organisms that float freely with oceanic currents and in other bodies of water. Plankton is made up of tiny plants (called phytoplankton) and tiny animals (called zooplankton). The word plankton comes from the Greek word "planktos" which means "drifting." Phytoplankton: Phytoplankton are primary producers (also called autotrophs). As the base of the oceanic food web, phytoplankton use chlorophyll to convert energy (from sunlight), inorganic chemicals (like nitrogen), and dissolved carbon dioxide gas into carbohydrates. Zooplankton: Zooplankton are microscopic animals that eat other plankton.

You can learn more about plankton and how scientists use them to study the ocean ecosystems.
Virtual Plankton Tow
Plankton tow technology at WHOI  Video
Plankton tow video
Blueworld Plankton math and science
Plankton adaptations

Plankton Webquest
Webquest Handout

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