Elizabeth Saunders - Phytoplankton Lab

University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA




Studying phytoplankton, particularly their productivity, has become important because of the adverse effect that increased phytoplankton productivity has on water clarity, and therefore the health of the ecosystem and other organisms, specifically the submerged aquatic vegetation. Measuring productivity accurately, however, is a challenge because it is unfeasible to measure it directly as frequently as needed to account for short term variability and it is difficult to take easily measured parameters, like chlorophyll concentration and light and convert them into measures of productivity. My objective this summer was to attempt to utilize an optical model to predict phytoplankton productivity in an estuarine environment. Throughout the summer, I worked extensively with many complex instruments, as well as processing lab samples, learning a number of important skills along the way. I concluded that more work with my model was needed before I could accurately predict productivity, but I did make some important steps towards that end. I intend on using the data I collected this summer as part of my distinguished major thesis for the University of Virginia. I also hope to go on to graduate school after the completion of my time at UVA, hopefully to study aquatic ecology.

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