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Agustina Lopez Novillo - Phytoplankton Lab

University of Miami, FL

My project was about the effects of the bloom forming dinoflagellate P. minimum on optical properties of water. By turning the water a reddish-brown color, P. minimum degrades water clarity, and as a result reduces the penetration of sunlight necessary for the growth of sea grasses. By becoming very abundant it can also lead to low DO levels, affecting fish and oyster beds. To study its optical properties, I cultured the species, tracked its growth, and took measurements on properties such as phytoplankton particulate absorption, scattering, CDOM (colored dissolved organic material), detritus absorption and cell counts. Culture growing of P. minimum in the lab allowed us to isolate the dinoflagellate and therefore study its effects on water clarity without the interference of other factors. The data collected will also be useful as model input to establish relationships between cell numbers and optical properties to predict the impacts on light penetration. Data from cultures can also be helpful for comparisons with data collected in the field. Besides phytoplankton, I also tracked the growth of bacteria and their light scattering ability in order to study their effects on optical properties.
In the future I will be going back to school for a Masters in Environmental Sciences with a focus on the impacts of coastal development on estuaries.