Plankton are cool! They are the microscopic plants and animals in lakes and the ocean, and they are the focus of our research at L. Baikal. Some are exquisitely beautiful; others strange or alien looking.
Plankton power us! Via photosynthesis, plant plankton (phytoplankton) produce the oxygen in every other breath we take, and some cold-water phytoplankton, like those in L. Baikal, provide the essential fatty acids without which our hearts and brains would not work. Also phytoplankton and, particularly, the zooplankton (animal plankton) feed the world’s fisheries in lakes and the ocean.
Plankton are useful! Their populations respond rapidly to changes in the environment because individual plankters have short lifespans (days, weeks). So they are useful biomonitors of environmental change. For example, subtle changes in their long-term abundance can be used to determine if seasonal events are coming earlier. Below, Derek introduces you to a mathematical analysis that can be applied to plankton abundance data to explore this possibility.
Power to the plankton!