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Continuous Assessment of Plankton Abundance and Community Structure in Canadian Coastal Waters with a Novel, Flow-Through, High-Throughput Holographic Microscope Operated on Volunteer Observing Ships

  • Julie LaRoche Dalhousie University

This project will incorporate a new plankton identification module into a ferrybox that is being installed on the Atlantic Condor, a commercial supply vessel that services the Deep Panuke drilling platform near Sable Island, Nova Scotia. The deployment of instruments and sensors mounted in ferryboxes on commercial vessels allows the collection of vast amount of continuous oceanographic data, year-round, economically and efficiently. These are vital for oceanographic research, environmental monitoring and fisheries.

Plankton is at the base of the marine food chain, supporting the growth of commercially important fish and marine mammals.

This project will incorporate a new plankton identification module into a ferrybox that is being installed on the Atlantic Condor, a commercial supply vessel that services the Deep Panuke drilling platform near Sable Island, Nova Scotia. The deployment of instruments and sensors mounted in ferryboxes on commercial vessels allows the collection of vast amount of continuous oceanographic data, year-round, economically and efficiently. These are vital for oceanographic research, environmental monitoring and fisheries.

Although increasing numbers of sensors are being developed for chemical measurements on commercial vessels, instruments for high -throughput identification and measurements of plankton (size range 0.01-1 mm) are lacking. In collaboration with Halifax based 4-Deep’s in-water imaging, a submersible system has been converted into a benchtop continuous flow-through model that can be deployed on a ferrybox. Work with the in-water imaging to improve the plankton identification software is ongoing. More than 5000 curated images of identified phytoplankton and zooplankton have been supplied to train and automate the identification software. Protocols are being developed to quantitatively calculate concentration of the different plankton species in a parcel of water.  The holographic microscope is a non-destructive device that collects images of live plankton in high-throughput mode (up to 15 fps at adjustable frequency) that will allow the calculation of cell concentration for the diverse plankton species in a parcel of water.

The track of the Atlantic Condor is ideally located within the area monitored by the Atlantic Zone Monitoring Program (AZMP), between two of the main lines surveyed in fall and spring by the Bedford Institute of Oceanography. This research project is highly beneficial and complementary to the AZMP bi-annual research cruises and will play a major role in future collaborations with the Bedford Institute of Oceanography (BIO) and with the Department of Fisheries and Ocean (DFO). In addition, it will provide an additional proof of concept for the Canadian startup company 4-Deep to expand the application of their innovative and unique technology to a shipboard continuous recording of observations.

This research is important because the expanding use of the Atlantic sector within the Canadian economic zone, coupled with ocean acidification and other changes in the coastal environment (e.g., planned ocean drilling sites, aquaculture), beg for an urgent need to establish a baseline for the current state of plankton, the food source at the base of nutrition for all larger marine organisms

This project is one of nine research projects funded through MEOPAR's partnership with Irving Shipbuilding Inc.  Read More

Partners:

  • 4Deep
  • Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)
  • Dalhousie University
  • Canada Excellence Research Chair (CERC)

Investigators:

  • Susanne Craig Dalhousie University
  • Doug Wallace MEOPAR

The research is important because the expanding use of the Atlantic sector within the Canadian economic zone, coupled with ocean acidification and other changes in the coastal environment (e.g. ocean drilling sites, aquaculture), beg for an urgent need to establish a baseline for the current state of plankton, the food source at the base of nutrition for all larger marine organisms.

The research will be highly beneficial and complementary to the AZMP biannual research cruises. In addition, it provides a proof of concept for the use of holographic microscopy in shipboard continuous recording of plankton observations and detection of bloom–forming harmful toxigenic algae (HAB).