Plankton! — Not From Spongebob

Aloha kākou! My name is Ryanne Gouveia and I’m apart of the Plankton Hui (Plankton of Puʻuloa) group. I joined this program because I was so fascinated by all of these tiny living things that I saw in an Oceanography lab and I wanted to know more about them. This program definitely allowed me to explore the biodiversity of the ocean that surrounds our islands.
Every Thursday morning, my group and I go out to Kapapapuhi Point Park in Ewa Beach with our buckets of equipment. We spend around 45 minutes there doing plankton tows and writing down observations and data that affects the ocean and our little plankton such as the weather over the past few days, wind speeds, salinity, and whether or not there are fishermen around. This data is crucial to our project because it can help us understand why we see certain types of plankton under what conditions. We collect qualitative and quantitative data. Yes, that means we count them! It can definitely be a struggle because they’re so fast and the love to move around. It’s like they don’t want to be counted! Because of that, I like to look at diversity. In our samples so far, we have found that the dominant types of plankton are copepods and diatoms.
In order to see these microscopic plankton, you either have to have extremely good eyesight, or you can use a microscope. Even though I don’t have perfect eyesight, I sometimes like to stare closely at our concentrated samples to see if I can spot anything out of the ordinary. One time, I actually spotted a copepod that was about the size of a baby shrimp, which I thought it was! After capturing it and placing it under the microscope, I noticed it was about 15x bigger than the copepods we’ve always seen and it had eggs that were already developing eyes. If you look in the photos, you can see that they’re way bigger than those round diatoms/pillboxes, when they’re usually around the same size.
Sometimes, we can tell when we are going to see a lot of pillbox diatoms when the water is green. Up until last week, we’ve only seen these round pillbox diatoms. Last week, we barely saw the pillboxes and we mostly saw Skeletonema diatoms, which to me look like a spinal cord. That was the first time we’ve seen these diatoms so far, and our samples were packed with them! They were everywhere and we were definitely excited.
One of the most exciting things I’ve seen so far was a “marine mite”. It looks exactly like a tick, but it’s microscopic. One of our group members found a green marine mite a few weeks ago, and I recently found a red marine mite.
I’m extremely grateful for having the opportunity to be a part of this amazing program. Seeing the different things that we can find in our oceans made me wonder what else there is to discover. Looking back, I never actually thought about the many different living things that are in the ocean we swim in. My group members and I get so excited when we see something new and it’s always so much fun. This program has inspired me in many ways. As a Native Hawaiian, Kilo ʻĀina allows me to appreciate our land and everything that is within it and everything that surrounds it even more.
– Ryanne
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