Help Scientists Identify Plankton!

Thursday, September 19, 2013 by Caroline Casals

Scientists need YOU to help them count and identify plankton!  A brand new project has been launched by the Unversity of Miami, NOAA, the National Science Foundation and the that uses the help of citizen scientists, like you, to help them count and identify plankton in the world’s oceans


You can help them count these plankton by looking at pictures taken by an underwater robot of plankton and matching them to pictures of other plankton. It’s a fast and easy way to help out and you don’t have to be an expert! This robot, called ISIIS* (“EYE-sis”) takes millions of photographs of the plankton without bringing them up to the surface.   This means that the scientists need lots of help looking at all those photos!


Fish3511 - Flickr - NOAA Photo Library

The robot also collects other cool and useful information like the temperature, depth and salinity of the water as well as how much chlorophyll (the stuff that plants use to get their energy from sunlight) is in the water.  This helps scientists figure out where plankton like to live and where they don’t. Right now they are trying to figure out how “patchy” the oceans are with plankton. 

Plankton are a critical part of the worlds oceans and are the base of the food web. They are food for small organisms and even the largest animals on the planet, whales.


If you want to help out, head on over to and get to work! 

Other cool citizen science zooniverse projects can be found here where you can...

--Help scientists count animals on the seafloor… 

--Or find planets! 

Want to join a Maine-based citizen science community? Check out our Vital Signs program, where you can sumbit data about the location of native and invasive species that you find.


*In Situ Ichtyoplankton Imaging System

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