The Phytoplankton Ecology lab is a research unit within the Coastal and Ocean Processes section at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, College of William and Mary.
Phytoplankton dynamics are a fundamental aspect of large-scale ecosystem phenomena such as biogeochemical cycling and fisheries health. Our lab’s aim is to understand the interactions between highly diverse components of the phytoplankton community, ranging in size from microns to millimeters and from autotrophs to mixotrophs to heterotrophs. Studying these interactions are important to understanding the movement of energy and materials through an ecosystem. We use field and laboratory experiments to explore how changes to marine environments, particularly in the coastal region where humans have a strong link to the ecosystem, will affect plankton interactions. Specific areas of phytoplankton research in the laboratory include:
- Investigate how changes to aquatic environments, such as increases/decreases in nutrient concentrations, increases in average temperature, or decreases in oxygen will affect phytoplankton, plankton predator-prey interactions, and plankton food-web dynamics.
- Quantify what portion of the plankton community in different environments are mixotrophs and investigate what factors influence variability in mixotroph abundance and activity.
- Use phytoplankton as an indicator to assess the water quality/health of an estuarine system in order to propose and assess effective environmental management strategies.