Drawings of some examples of phytoplankton


Phytoplankton are extremely diverse, ranging from the smallest photosynthesizing cyanobacteria (synechococcus, prochlorococcus), to relatively large silica-encased diatoms, dinoflagellates, green algae, and calcite-armoured coccolithophores (drawings not to scale). Credit: adapted from drawings by Sally Bensusen, NASA EOS Project Science Office.

Read more:

Earth Observatory - What are Phytoplankton?

NASA Ocean Color Group

The Darwin Project at MIT

Schmidt Ocean Institute - Sea to Space Particle Investigation

NASA Earth Expedition blog: Why ocean particles? Why NASA?

DIY data investigations:

NEO Analysis: Pacific life - how is it related to ocean temperature?

Hands-on activity: What Color is the Ocean?

Interactive tool to explore Phytoplankton


Distribution of marine diatoms


Diatom distributions in the ocean are mapped in red, with images of different types collected at sea and later seen through microscope (inset). Diatoms tend to dominate where nutrients - notably silicate - are plentiful. Their cell walls are primarily composed of silica. Credit: Global map of modeled phytoplankton distributions by Oliver Jahn, MIT Darwin Project. Phytoplankton samples were collected by Ivona Cetinić, NASA GSFC (USRA), during the Schmidt Ocean Institute Sea to Space Particle Investigation and imaged by Luka S̆upraha and Sunc̆ica Bosak.

Additional visualization:

Modeled Phytoplankton Communities in the Global Ocean