For many years, Ocean Ecology performed marine plankton identification and enumeration (both phytoplankton and zooplankton) in its laboratory. Samples were collected using either a water bottle or a plankton net. After preservation, the samples were examinined using a microscope. Depending on the particular study being performed, analysis ranged from simply identifying and enumerating harmful algal species to a full analysis of all species present.
Plankton may be studied for a variety of purposes:
- as a part of basic ecological research and food web analysis
- as an indicator of global climate change
- to assist in the siting of mariculture operations
- to aid in the timing of remote setting, grow-out, and harvesting procedures in mariculture
- to provide an early detection method for harmful algal blooms and related incidences of shellfish poisoning
- to monitor for alien invasive species (planktonic larvae or adults)
An example of a local nontoxic red tide (Noctiluca scintillans) is shown below.