Most plankton are too small to be seen with the naked eye. But despite their size, they are vital in marine and freshwater ecosystems, serving as food for larger animals and as oxygen producers in the ocean’s carbon cycle. Microscopy has made it possible to photograph these tiny creatures in the lab, but capturing their behavior in their natural environment has been impossible—until now. Researchers in San Diego are developing the world’s first underwater video microscope, capable of imaging these miniscule organisms in 3D. When plankton are swept into the submersible microscope’s collection chamber, multiple cameras reveal the minute life-forms floating inside. These never-before-seen views of living plankton are a missing piece of the puzzle for scientists who study life in water. Observing activity on a microscopic scale will inform the bigger picture of interactions among creatures of all sizes in oceans, lakes, and rivers around the world.
The Secret Life of Plankton
Jaffe Laboratory for Underwater Imaging
Copepod: A Global Plankton Database
Cooperative Zooplankton Database
Census of Marine Zooplankton
An Image-based Key to the Zooplankton of the Northeast
The Plankton Chronicles