Plankton can be defined as organisms that cannot swim against the current. But these organisms are much more than just some “drifting critters”. This diverse collection of living creatures can range from mega to micro sizes. Likewise, plankton can come in many interesting shapes from jellyfish such as the Lion’s mane that can grow to be over 90 feet in length. In contrast, to copepods that are also plankton growing at most 2 millimeters in length. Plankton are one of the most breathtaking organisms in my opinion because of these diversities.
Over these past weeks I had the opportunity to participate in the Kilo ʻĀina program. Being in this program fueled my curiosity and without a doubt put me in awe every week. Growing up in Hawaiʻi my whole life I have always been doing something that involved the ocean whether that be fishing with my uncles or just enjoying the waves. However, plankton was a new eye opener to me; it was a life within life. I knew that plankton existed in our bodies of water and provided food for fish, but now I know plankton is much more than just fish food. Plankton can act as a “biological carbon dioxide vacuum” meaning plankton such as phytoplankton can consume carbon dioxide making them the living air filter just like trees and other plants.
This may be my first semester participating in the Kilo ʻĀina program but this atmosphere of learning has been nothing but an interesting experience. In these weeks I got to experience being able to look at the water composition in the moku I live in. Through these weeks, my group and I were guided by Dr. Anuschka Faucci as we analyzed plankton through a microscope. As my peers and I analyze these organisms you could see the amount of diversity a few milliliters of seawater held. As a result of constant observations through the lens of the microscope I was able to catch a glimpse of just some of the diverse creatures in the ocean; from fish larvae, sea sparkles that light up the ocean like stars in the night sky, to polychaetes that squirm in and around the Petri dish.
Overall these past weeks working with Dr. Anuschka Faucci and my peers has been a very eye opening experience to say the least. Analyzing these organisms through a lens showed me the amount of life our bodies of water contain even if we cannot generally see them with the naked eye. I look forward to continuing our research work and learning more about the environment we live in. Although some plankton are small there is a whole living system of life within and because of plankton.
– Jessica Lee