Visiting Scientists Begin Intensive Phytoplankton Course
Scientists from seven states, Pakistan, and Australia are participating in an intensive training course taught by Robert Andersen and Michael Sieracki at Bigelow Laboratory in basic and advanced techniques for growing phytoplankton cultures in the laboratory. Worldwide, there is increasing attention on growing marine phytoplankton for possible use as biofuels. (10/23/2008)WEST BOOTHBAY HARBOR, ME – Scientists from Texas, Washington, Florida, California, Massachusetts, Missouri, Maine, Pakistan, and Australia will be at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences from October 23 through 29 for an intensive, seven-day training course in techniques for growing phytoplankton cultures in the laboratory. Bigelow Senior Research Scientists Drs. Robert Andersen and Michael Sieracki will instruct the group in basic and advanced techniques for isolating, growing, and cryopreserving marine phytoplankton, the microscopic single-celled algae responsible for photosynthesis in the oceans. Besides providing the base of the ocean’s food chain, phytoplankton photosynthesis produces roughly half of the oxygen we breathe, and plays a crucial role in the ocean’s ability to remove atmospheric carbon dioxide generated by humans.
There is increasing attention on marine phytoplankton as a possible source of oils for biofuels to replace conventional petroleum-based fuels. Focus is growing on methods for culturing these marine algae on an industrial scale, making this course of immediate and international interest.
Dr. Andersen is the Director of the Provasoli-Guillard National Center for the Culture of Marine Phytoplankton at Bigelow Laboratory. The Center contains over 2,400 algal strains and is the world’s largest collection of living marine phytoplankton cultures. Since the 1980s, Bigelow Laboratory has helped to pioneer methods for collecting, growing, and preserving phytoplankton from marine environments around the world. The U. S. Congress designated the Center as the official phytoplankton collection for the nation in 1992.
Dr. Sieracki is the Director of the Laboratory’s J. J. MacIsaac Facility for Aquatic Cytometry, which uses the latest cell-sorting methods to study the ecology and biology of planktonic viruses, bacteria, protozoa, and phytoplankton in natural systems, laboratory experiments, and cultures.
Designed for graduate students, faculty members, and aquaculturists, the phytoplankton culturing course is taught at Bigelow Laboratory every year. Class size is limited to ten people and the course is oversubscribed for the current session.
“This is an outstanding opportunity for scientists to collaborate and learn the latest methodologies in this emerging area of microbiology,” said Sieracki. “Bigelow is an international leader in growing phytoplankton, and this is a way we can share our expertise with more people around the world.”
Established in 1974, Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences is a center for global ocean research. The laboratory’s research focus ranges from microbial oceanography -- examining biological productivity in the world’s oceans at the molecular level -- to the large-scale biogeochemical processes that drive interactions between ocean ecosystems and global environmental conditions. An independent, non profit research institution, the Laboratory is supported by federal research grants and private funds.
Photo: Oil droplets inside Cyclotella cryptica phytoplankton cells.