Helicopters, Ponds, and Plankton, Oh My!

Helicopters, Ponds, and Plankton, Oh My!

By Stephanie Owens

The last two weeks in Abisko, Sweden have most notably included a helicopter ride (what better way to see the landscape than from the air?), celebrating midsummer (strawberry cake, dancing around a maypole, and a whole lot of daylight!), and scoping out field sites in Stordalen Mire.

And of course adjusting to living in a new country.

View from the helicopter
Departing the helicopter

As I adjust to this new and amazing environment I have been preparing for my research project. I will be measuring how fast zooplankton (microscopic animals in the water that many fish eat) grow as an indicator of secondary production in relation to the amount of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) in the water.  This research project builds off of my master’s research in the San Francisco Estuary but is in a very different type of environment and relates zooplankton growth rates to DOC rather than chlorophyll (a proxy for phytoplankton biomass).

I’ve always sampled for zooplankton from a boat. But that doesn’t mean that is the only way to sample for zooplankton. In my field site here, Stordalen Mire, I am sampling zooplankton from very shallow bodies of water that boats wouldn’t be able to go in to. Cue plankton net attached to a pole! This contraption allows me to sample zooplankton from land by simply dragging the net through the water from land. I now have my 3 field sites selected but to learn more about the adventures of scoping out field sites in Stordalen Mire be sure to check out Marina’s blog here.

After preliminary sampling in Stordalen Mire I was excited to look at my samples under the microscope, where a 40 mL sample of water becomes a whole lot more interesting! I was thrilled to see an abundance of zooplankton from the larger ponds, including my favorite zooplankton group: copepods.

Plankton net attached to a pole (photo credit: Marina Lauck) 

Next up: creating incubation chambers for growth rate experiments that will begin in 2 days!

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