Protists, single-celled organisms, are among the most numerous and most important inhabitants of marine and estuarine environments.

Photosynthetic protists (microalgae) are responsible for much of the primary production that occurs in the world's oceans, and non-photosynthetic protists, protozoa which are capable of consuming prey, play pivotal roles in transfering energy and matter to higher levels in the food web.

The underlying theme of our research is that interactions among planktonic protists comprise a complex and poorly understood food web in which protozoan predators and parasites play an important role. By exploring relationships between protists and their physical and biological surroundings, we are working to understand the mechanisms by which energy and matter are transferred through or recycled within the marine food web.

Most of our work has centered on populations resident in the main stem of the Chesapeake Bay; however, recent research initiatives have examined protistan populations of the Rhode River subestuary.

Current research topics include:
(1) the ecological significance of parasitism among ciliates and dinoflagellates;
(2) causes and consequences of dinoflagellate mixotrophy;
(3) patterns in diversity and distribution of Chesapeake Bay ciliates;
(4) encystment and excystment cycles in planktonic ciliates;
(5) the role of protists in the decomposition of leaf litter in streams; and
(6) ciliate epibionts of planktonic crustacea.

Dr. D. Wayne Coats
Senior Scientist
Smithsonian Environmental
Research Center

PO Box 28
Edgewater, Maryland 21037
Phone: 443-482-2271
Fax: 443-482-2380

Curriculum Vitae