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A Rainbow of Plankton

[10-Nov-17] Jars of phytoplankton cultures show their unique coloration in a lineup at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in Boothbay Maine. These cultures of single species showcase the spectral properties of their pigments, shape and size through the absorption and scattering of light. To us, this appears as different colors, but to sensitive instruments, even more information can be obtained. By detecting and analyzing the spectra of different phytoplankton species, PACE scientists like Aimee Neeley and Antonio Mannino are working to better understand their unique spectral signatures. The hyperspectral PACE ocean color instrument, which is sensitive to a wide swath of wavelengths, may be able to tease out these different phytoplankton groups from space. Understanding what species are present is just as important as how many are in a bloom, and can help us better react to harmful algal blooms, predict fisheries impacts and better understand the dynamics of ocean biology.