Citizen Science: Microscopic Creatures Hold the Key to the Future

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

 

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

 

Travelers who are visiting the Antarctic Peninsula are helping scientists in the Vernet Lab at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, California and at Universidad Nacional de la Plata, Argentina, to monitor phytoplankton on the Antarctic coast.

 

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

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 of data to PhD doctoral thesis research for two 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 using a kickstarter grant from the National Science Foundation to purchase six kits. Subsequent funding support has come through a Scripps Mullin Fellowship award, the Hurtigruten Foundation and generous donations from travelers! BUT we only have six kits to distribute to ships in any one season and many more who want to get involved. We want to expand this effort! And you can be a part of it. 

 

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 IAATO (see itemized list of gear costs below). Your donation supports the processing and analysis of these precious samples once they reach the lab! Your support also fosters young scientists into the field of polar research. You are making an impact, so THANK YOU! **(Donations go directly to the Vernet Lab, without the university taking 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 (black/white)
  • $35: Phytoplankton identification book (designed by FjordPhyto team!)
  • $40: Transect survey line (100m)
  • $200: Pack of filters (500)
  • $300: Onboard microscope Celestron Tetraview with LCD camera
  • $400: Reusable filtration set with hand-pump
  • $320: Genetic extraction kit to processes 50 samples
  • $335: Plankton net
  • $650: Annual calibration of salinity/temperature instruments
  • $2,500: Flight to join an AECO/IAATO-ship as Guest Scientist for part of the season.
  • $7,397: Instrument to measure salinity and temperature at depth, user-friendly device produced by SonTek CastAwayCTD in San Diego.
  • $11,000: Entire FjordPhyto kit (including 1-year device calibration cost)
  • $14,150: Next generation genomic analysis, 100 samples
  • $60,000: Sponsor a student! (average tuition cost for PhD program/year)

*(prices provide rough estimates and are subject to change based on shipping/tax increases)

 

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

 

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

 

Visit FjordPhyto online at

 

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

 

Happy FjordPhyto Citizen Scientists

 

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