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William Durham’s Research on Phytoplankton Sheet Formation

February 20th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted in Algae-Fuel-Research

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Scientists know that phytoplankton – microscopic algae that serve as the base of the ocean’s food chain – often appear in thin, but immensely dense, sheets in the ocean that can extend for more than a mile.

These plant-rich regions serve as feeding hotspots for fish and other organisms – but also can harbor harmful blooms known as red tide that can wreak economic havoc on shellfish industries, including those in New England.

Now, research by MIT phD student William Durham and colleagues being published today in the journal Science is giving new insight into the mechanism of how these sheets form – and how different species of phytoplankton can get trapped, layer-cake like, in ocean currents. The findings could help researchers better understand how and where phytoplankton accumulates in the ocean and possibly address problems from fishery declines to red tide.

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