Citizen Science: Microscopic Creatures Hold the Key to the Future

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


We hoped you liked watching the trailer film (see 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 de la Plata, Argentina, to monitor phytoplankton on the Antarctic coast.


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

  1. Book  - We are designing a book with beautiful graphics and identification key for phytoplankton found along the Antarctic Peninsula. Support the graphic illustrator, publication and distribution, and get your copy today!
  2. Film – We are designing a short documentary highlighting the beauty and importance of why science, tourism and phytoplankton matter. This film will be submitted to film festivals which have admissions fees associated with entry. You can help us submit our film.
  3. Gear to take samples – All the gear items needed to collect phytoplankton are listed below. You can help us purchase a kit which will then be given to ships in Antarctica to get people involved in collecting samples. This is very low-budget science compared to some research projects!  
  4. Analyzing samples – the samples are processed by two graduate students Allison Cusick and Martina Mascioni. Analyzing samples requires a lot of time and funding to buy lab materials to process samples, and submit samples for next generation sequencing. Help us process our samples today!  

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?

We train Polar Expedition Staff in rigorous sampling methods, and during the season they engage with travelers onboard tour ships to collect phytoplankton samples while visiting various fjords. 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 experience enhances the traveler experience and provides a new perspective on ocean life to consider and share with friends back at home. All samples collected contribute to PhD doctoral thesis research for two graduate students, Allison Cusick at Scripps Oceanography (USA), and Martina Mascioni at Universidad de La Plata (Argentina). 


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 also supports the processing and analysis of these precious samples once they reach the lab! And your support helps foster young scientists into the field of polar research. You are making an impact, so THANK YOU!


What are the estimated costs*? 

  • $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 picture taking abilities
  • $400: reusable filtration set with hand-pump
  • $320: genetic extraction kit to processes 50 samples
  • $335: plankton net
  • $600: 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

*(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



Photo: Maria Stenzel
Antarctic Diatom by Maria Stenzel



“Participation in citizen science allowed me to be more than just a tourist.” ~ FjordPhyto Citizen Scientist



Happy FjordPhyto Citizen Scientists


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

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