Scientists Use URI Research Vessel To Study Microscopic Ocean Plants

Aug 1, 2014

A group of scientists with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Scientists and other partner universities are still at sea on the research vessel the Endeavor. The Endeavor is operated by the University of Rhode Island. These scientists are studying microscopic plant organisms that are fundamental to our everyday life.

Phytoplankton, microscopic ocean plants, are a major food source for clams and oysters. Pictured here are mostly phytoplankton and zooplankton, tiny marine animals that typically drift in the surface of water bodies.
Credit Dick Willapalens / Creative Commons

NASA recently launched a coordinated ship and aircraft mission off the Atlantic coast to test new technologies to better monitor phytoplankton. These tiny ocean plants are the base of the marine food chain that supports our fin and shell fisheries. They also absorb carbon dioxide and produce half of the oxygen in the air we breathe.

NASA scientists want to better understand how and why different species and concentrations of phytoplankton change from year to year. That’ll give them more insight about how climate change is affecting the ocean and phytoplankton. The Endeavor, owned by the National Science Foundation, departed from Narragansett Bay two weeks ago and has one more week to go at sea.