Nicole Poulton, PhD

Senior Research Scientist
Center for Aquatic Cytometry Director
Phytoplankton Ecologist
Phone: +1 (207) 315-2567, ext. 513

For media inquiries, please contact


B.S. 1993, Biology, Virginia Tech

B.A. 1993, Chemistry, Virginia Tech

Ph.D. 2001, Biological Oceanography, Massachusetts Institute of Technology & Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint Program

Research Interests

I am a phytoplankton ecologist, focusing on the role phytoplankton community structure has on the variability of particulate organic carbon (POC). POC is a key player in the global carbon cycle. My colleagues and I, are currently working to develop better algorithms for optical proxies of POC (NASA funded: Multi-sensor, Ecosystem-based Approaches for the Estimation of Particulate Organic Carbon).

Other Research interests include:

Analysis of phytoplankton community dynamics over time and space (time series analysis – annual and decadal), including predator prey interactions. As a member, of the ICES Working Group on Phytoplankton and Microbial Ecology - the group has published status reports on the ecological status of phytoplankton and microbial plankton in the North Atlantic and adjacent sea, spanning seven geographical regions and 61 monitoring sites, including Booth Bay, Maine.

Examining the ecology and physiology of phytoplankton, specifically nutrient dynamics of harmful algal bloom species.

Development of aquatic flow and imaging cytometry applications, including the use of new fluorescence probes and expanding the use of cell sorting techniques at the single cell level (genomic or analytical). Methods include detecting biogenic silica in diatoms and counting heterotrophic micrograzers.


  • Karsenti, E., S. G. Acinas, P. Bork, C. Bowler, C. De Vargas et al. and the TARA Consortium (N. J. Poulton – member). 2011 A Holistic Approach to Marine Ecosystems Biology. PLoS Biol 9(10): e1001177. Doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001177
  • Swan, B. K., M. M. Martinez-Garcia, C. M. Preston, A. Sczyrba, T. Woyke, D. Lamy, T. Reinthaler, N. J. Poulton, E. D. P. Masland, M Lluesma-Gomez, M. E. Sieracki, E. F. DeLong, G.J. Herndl, and R. Stepanauskas. 2011. Potential for chemolithoautotrophy among ubiquitous bacteria lineages in the dark ocean. Science. 333 (6047): 1296-1300.
  • Martinez-Martinez, J, N. J. Poulton, R. Stepanauskas, M. E. Sieracki, and W. H. Wilson. 2011. Targeted sorting of single virus-infected unicellular marine algae. PLos ONE
  • Fleming, EJ, AE Landgon, M Martinez-Garcia, R. Stepanauskas, N. J. Poulton, D. Masland, D. Emerson. 2011. What’s new is old: resolving the identity of Leptothrix ochracea using single cell genomics, pyrosequencing and FISH. PLoS ONE 6(3): e17769.
  • Poulton, N. J. and J. Martin. 2010. Imaging flow cytometry for quantitative phytoplankton analysis — FlowCAM. In: Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of ©UNESCO. Karlson, B., Cusack, C. and Bresnan, E. (editors). Microscopic and molecular methods for quantitative phytoplankton analysis. Paris, UNESCO. (IOC Manuals and Guides, no. 55.) (IOC/2010/MG/55), 110 pages.
  • Poulton, N. J., B. A. Keafer, and D. M. Anderson. 2005. Toxin variability in natural population of Alexandrium fundyense in Casco Bay, Maine – evidence of nitrogen limitation. Deep Sea Research II. 52: 2501-2521.
  • Heywood, JL, ME Sieracki, W Bellows, N.J Poulton, R Stepanauskas. 2010. Capturing diversity of marine heterotrophic protists – one cell at a time. ISME Journal DOI: ISMEJ.2010.155
  • Yenstch, C. S., B. E. Lapointe, N. Poulton, D. A. Phinney. 2008. Anatomy of a red tide bloom off the southwest coast of Florida. Harmful Algae. 7: 817-826.
  • Rose, J. M., D. A. Caron, M. E. Sieracki and N. J. Poulton. 2004. Counting heterotrophic nanoplanktonic protists in cultures and in aquatic communities by flow cytometry. Aquatic Microbial Ecology 34: 263-277.