Friday, November 2, 2012

Zooplankton and Phytoplankton in Puget Sound

Getting to know the noble plankton of the Pacific Northwest:

What is it?
It's meaning is derived from the Greek adjective planktos and plankton is simply put- a drifter.  There are two major types of plankton: Zooplankton and Phytoplankton...

What's the difference?  
Great question!

Zooplankton are animal-like and depend on phytoplankton as a food source
Phytoplankton are plant-like and photosynthesize- producing their own food

There are millions of this ocean species out there. They are subject to ocean currents and tides and unable to move about on their own.  Plankton are also the building blocks of life in the ocean and ultimately life on earth.  Providing countless ecosystem services, zooplankton and phytoplankton are pretty much the coolest thing out there.

Picture the iconic image of Atlas holding the world on his shoulders… now replace that with a Plankton species and you have:  duu dah dahhhh…. 

Where do you find it?
In fresh water AND sea water. For the purpose of this series, we will learn about plankton found in Puget Sound and the Pacific Northwest. 

It is difficult to say exactly what species of zooplankton or phytoplankton you will find where, since they are subject to the flows of ocean currents and tides (hence: drifters).  Therefore, you may find yourself towing for plankton in your spare time…

(PTMSC's Citizen Science AmeriCorps, Emily Neal, towing for plankton... In her spare time!)

And find a typically tropical species in Puget Sound!

This tropical species, Dinophysis tripos was found at 
Port Townsend Marine Science Center last year!

What purpose does it serve?
Basically, plankton is the coolest thing out there. If you don’t believe me, check out this four minute video and you will be convinced:   

With the ability to photosynthesize, sequester carbon dioxide from the earth's atmosphere, and produce nearly 90% of the oxygen coming from the ocean... You can't deny it!

If you still beg to differ that plankton is most definitely the coolest living thing on planet earth… drift your way through the upcoming installments of this blog series and I have no doubt you will come to agree.


  1. I always think that a really creative silver or goldsmith could make fabulous jewelry based on phytoplankton designs. Eucampia, for example, could be a queen's necklace.

  2. Cool Jamie! I have to link your blog to my class webpage so kids can read it and LEARN!! Thanks!


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