Plankton is a mysterious world that seems very far away. However, plankton can be found everywhere and in all oceans.
Plankton, from the Greek “wandering” planktos, defines all organisms unable to fight against a current: we find bacteria, microalgae (phytoplankton) contributing to 50% of the oxygen we breathe, small crustaceans (zooplankton) but also larger animals such as jellyfish!
Plankton can be categorized into two groups: permanent and temporary plankton. Organisms belonging to the latter group have only part of their life cycle in planktonic form, such as fish eggs and larvae. In fact, during the first stages of life, these fish larvae drift with ocean currents and undergo a series of transformations before reaching their adult form. These larvae have specific adaptations with characteristics that disappear in the adult. Some species therefore have common characteristics in the larval stage that are absent in the adults. Knowledge of the different larval states is therefore information that must be taken into account when studying the evolution of these species and their relationships.
The Planktidex kit is made up of a plankton net, towed behind the boat, allowing the collection of a sample of seawater which will be preserved for the study of ichthyoplankton. On the other hand, a plankton microscope has been prototyped to be used with a mobile phone, on board the boat allowing live observations and photos of the plankton taken.
We are also working on the development of an application that could facilitate the recognition and sampling of the plankton collected. The kit is intended to be reproduced by all and distributed on the different networks, under OpenSource licence and co-constructed with the partners.
To answer the scientific problem, the sampling of ichthyoplankton in the natural environment is necessary to know the development cycles: the more specimens sampled, the more series we will have to know the development stages of the fish larvae.
The net can be deployed at any time on board the boat, for a period of about 15 minutes. The samples are then stored before being sent, with the photos to the research team at the end of the trip.
In order to achieve our scientific objectives, we work closely with researchers to design this harvesting kit and analytical methods that can be mastered by citizens and are useful for research.
Finally, online analysis tools in the form of maps, tables, graphs, etc., accessible in real time each time a new sample is inserted, will make it possible to value the work of each user who will observe his contribution in real time.