Citizen Science: Microscopic Creatures Hold the Key to the Future

Citizen Science: Microscopic Creatures Hold the Key to the Future

How are science and tourism working together? Through citizen science!

Make sure you watch the one-minute trailer video above!

Through the FjordPhyto citizen science project, travelers who are visiting the Antarctic Peninsula are helping scientists in the Vernet Lab at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego and at Universidad Nacional de la Plata in Argentina to monitor phytoplankton on the Antarctic coast.

Your donation supports polar science and the next generation of polar scientists. To learn more about the specific ways your donation supports the FjordPhyto project, read below.

Why are Phytoplankton so important?

Phytoplankton provide food for the rest of the animals in the ocean. They produce over half of the Earth's oxygen supply – more than plants and trees on land combined! They regulate global biogeochemistry cycles, such as drawing carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and sending it to the deep ocean. Polar Regions are Changing FAST

The Arctic and Antarctic are experiencing the most rapid rates of warming compared to any other region in the world. As air and ocean temperatures rise, glaciers begin to melt. This melted glacial water enters the ocean and can change the marine ecosystem. The first organisms to experience change, are the phytoplankton: microscopic plant-like creatures that drift in the ocean. We are interested in understanding how they respond to changes in the polar regions, potentially providing a key to mitigate change in the future.

How is FjordPhyto Helping?

Since 2016, we have partnered with eight tour operators and ten ships to train Polar Expedition staff in rigorous sampling methods. During the daylight season (November through March) they engage with travelers onboard tour ships to collect phytoplankton samples while visiting various fjords along the coast. Visitors gain real life experience in polar research as Citizen Scientists during the day, and enjoy educational lectures about polar ecosystems in the evenings. This immersive environment enhances the traveler experience and provides a new perspective on ocean life to consider and share with friends back at home. Over 300 samples collected thus far contribute an amazing time-series data set for two PhD doctoral thesis graduate students, Allison Cusick at Scripps Oceanography (USA), and Martina Mascioni at Universidad Nacional de La Plata (Argentina).

Where did prior funding come from?

The first year of this project was started with a grant from the National Science Foundation's Office of Polar Programs to purchase six kits of scientific gear. Subsequent funding support has come through a Scripps Mullin Fellowship award, the Hurtigruten Foundation and generous donations from travelers! But we want to expand this effort and you can be a part of it!

There are four ways in which we would immensely appreciate your support:

You Can Help Today!

Your donation helps us create the book, submit the film to film festivals, and purchase sampling gear to assemble kits to send to tour operator partners affiliated with the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators. Your donation supports the processing and analysis of these precious samples once they reach the lab! Your support also fosters young female scientists into the field of polar research. You are making an impact, so THANK YOU!

**(Donations go directly to the Vernet Lab, with no overhead fees, AND it is a tax-deductible donation with an official letter that will be sent upon donation)**.

What are the estimated costs*?

$25: Secchi disk to measure light levels $35: Phytoplankton identification book (designed by FjordPhyto team artists and scientists) $40: Transect survey line (100m) $200: Pack of filters (500) $300: Onboard microscope Celestron Tetraview with LCD camera $320: Genetic extraction kit to processes 50 samples $335: Plankton net $400: Reusable filtration set with hand-pump $650: Annual calibration of salinity/temperature instruments $2,500: Flight to send a student to join a ship as Guest Scientist for part of the season. $7,397: The cost of the instrument that measures salinity and temperature at depth produced by SonTek CastAwayCTD. $12,000: Entire FjordPhyto kit (including 1-year device calibration cost) $14,000: Next generation genomic analysis, 100 samples $60,000: Sponsor a student! (average annual tuition cost for PhD student) *(prices provide rough estimates and are subject to change based on shipping/tax increases)

The power of monitoring change in the polar regions comes from data gathered by travelers year after year.

Your donation helps FjordPhyto make this large-scale effort possible.

Follow FjordPhyto's journey online at

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“With more information I can create more connections between global events and tell other people.” ~ FjordPhyto Citizen Scientist

Happy FjordPhyto Citizen Scientists


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