Temporal dynamics of phytoplankton populations in coastal NH

Phytoplankton – microscopic marine algae that live in our oceans and photosynthesize like plants – are the food that fuels all marine ecosystems. Changes in the phytoplankton community – in abundance, species, or size range – can have large effects on our oceans and the fisheries and industries we rely on. While we monitor for chlorophyll levels in NH, a good indicator of abundance of phytoplankton, chlorophyll doesn't tell the full story of what species live in our waters and the rapid rises and falls of phytoplankton blooms. Dr. Elizabeth Harvey, Associate Professor in the College of Life Sciences and Agriculture at UNH, will be leading the first effort in New Hampshire waters to measure the species diversity of plankton over timescales of hours to months, capturing information that will inform fisheries, aquaculture, and ecosystem management in the region.

Principle Investigator

A headshot of Dr. Elizabeth Harvey

Elizabeth Harvey, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Biological Sciences, University of New Hampshire

Contact Dr. Harvey

Project Funding Cycle
2022-2023 NH Sea Grant Biennial Research Funding


Project Abstract

Phytoplankton are central to all marine life, as they play a central role in all marine biogeochemical cycles. Despite their importance, the temporal variability of phytoplankton abundance and community composition is unknown for many marine ecosystems. This is true for coastal NH, where past efforts in characterizing phytoplankton population dynamics have focused on capturing variability in bulk measurements such as chlorophyll. However, resolving phytoplankton taxonomic diversity over time is essential for better climate model parameterization and fisheries management. This proposal seeks funding to conduct the first full characterization of the phytoplankton community in Great Bay, NH and the outer NH coast, over daily to weekly to annual time scales. Additionally, outreach work is proposed that will raise the profile of the importance of phytoplankton for K-5 students and provide students that reside in non-coastal parts of NH a fun, interactive marine-focused experience. This work will be of interest and support the work of all groups that have a vested interest in the health and function of marine ecosystems in coastal NH. 


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