Diatoms, Copepods, and Ctenophores – Oh My!

Aloha kakou! My name is Melissa Martella, I am currently a STEM student at Leeward Community College with hopes of heading to UH Hilo to pursue Environmental Science with a mix of Hawaiian Studies. This is my first semester in the Kilo Aina Program and so far I have learned a lot. I am in the Plankton Hui and I honestly never thought I would be so interested in such little creatures! We are on the search to identify the plankton of Pu’uloa which is really cool for me because I have helped in some shoreline restoration around the area.


Every week me and the dream team head to Neal Blaisdell Park on the hunt for our next haul of little guys, or girls (we are a group of equality to all creatures, except cockroaches..). There are a few things we must do before we begin our attack. We check the current weather conditions and cloud coverage, we check visual water quality and note if it has rained in the past few days. We also run some cool tests to check turbidity and salinity. This part of the process is what helped me fully realize how connected all aspects of the environment are and how one thing can seriously affect another.


When we first collected the plankton and brought it back to the lab I was thinking, we just collected water I don’t see any of the Spongebob characters in here. Then we put it under a microscope and Boom, a whole bunch of life moving around before my eyes. Diatoms, which at first I thought were mere scratches in the lens of the microscope. Copepods, which some indeed did look like little versions of the character Plankton from Spongebob, and some look like little baby lobsters. One of the coolest things that we found so far were little clam larvae! They are so cute and look like clams but only miniature. My favorite find so far is a Ctenophore (pronounced Te-na-fore). It was so amazing to see and you can even see it with your naked eye, a little mini jellyfish looking creature swimming around in our specimen bottle.


All in all, I am really happy to be learning about something so interesting and something so new to me. I want to send a mahalo nui to my team members Manny and Jacob for all your hard work and good vibes. I also want to give it up to the real MVPs of the Kilo Aina program, Professor Anuschka Faucci and Dr. Viviani. Mahalo to both of you for all your help throughout the program and all the inspiration!

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