Rapid visualization of plankton abundance and taxonomic composition using the Video Plankton Recorder Academic Article uri icon


  • Traditional methods for determining spatial distributions of planktonic taxa involve net, pump, and bottle collections followed by the tedious and time-consuming task of plankton sample analysis. Thus, plankton ecologists often require months or even years to process samples from a single study. In this paper, we present a method that allows rapid visualization of the distribution of planktonic taxa while at sea. Rapid characterization of plankton distributions is essential in the dynamic physical environment, where biological and physical patterns can change quickly. Such a ‘’sample-and-observe” capability is necessary for mapping ephemeral features (such as patches, eddies, jets, plumes) and determining appropriate locations to conduct more localized sampling, including in situ observational studies. We describe the techniques used in imaging the plankton, analyzing the video, and visualizing the data. We present an example of at-sea data analysis conducted aboard R.V. Columbus Iselin on Georges Bank in May 1994 and visualizations of the 3-dimensional distribution of selected planktonic taxa in a 2 x 2 km x 90 m volume of seawater. A video of the image processing and visualization is included on the CD-ROM accompanying this volume and is an essential part of this paper. Copyright (C) 1996 Elsevier Science Ltd

publication date

  • January 1996