Marine Plankton Ecology – cancelled

Instructors:  Dr. Diana Varela & TBA


This course will investigate the ecology and diversity of phytoplankton and zooplankton, and the links between plankton biology and the physicochemical characteristics of the marine environment in which they live. In the ocean, phytoplankton and zooplankton have unparalleled taxonomic, morphological and genetic diversity, and are the foundation of pelagic food webs. The goal of this course is to understand the dynamics of lower trophic levels in marine pelagic ecosystems, and the critical role of these organisms on the biogeochemistry and ecology of the ocean and the planet at different time and space scales. This course will include a combination of lectures, field and laboratory work, discussion of papers from the primary literature, and independent projects.

Research skills: 

Students will have opportunities for hands-on field sampling and laboratory experimentation. They will learn critical skills in evaluating the primary literature, producing scientific question, designing and implementing a research project, and presenting project results in written and oral form.

Practical Skills: 

Students will practice time management skills, collaborative team work, and effective communication. They will learn research techniques in basic biological oceanography, and plankton sampling and experimentation.

Boat Use:

The Alta will be used to carry out oceanographic sampling, which will include the collection of plankton samples using plankton nets and Niskin bottles, and the measurement of the physicochemical characteristics of the water column using a CTD. You will be given the opportunity to drive smaller boats if you choose to do so. Boat driving provides a wider range of options for conducting field work and group projects.  Students not feeling comfortable driving boats may have the opportunity to work with boat driving peers. Students who wish to drive boats at BMSC must hold a PCOC and valid first aid certificate and will participate in an introductory boat check-out on the first day of orientation.


Students must have third-year standing in sciences, preferably in biology, marine or ocean sciences. They should also have successfully completed first year math, physics and chemistry courses, as well as introductory statistics and ecology courses. A cellular biology course is recommended but not required.

Physical Requirements:

This course does not include any physical exertion or challenges beyond what is normally expected in any field course. However, sampling and experimentation in the field always requires good disposition and careful work (on boats or on the shoreline). Come prepared to spend time in the beautiful outdoors around BMSC with proper clothing (waterproof, windproof and warm).

Required Text:

There is no required textbook. Notes and book reading will be provided by the instructors.

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This is a new course!