Natural History Society of Maryland
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Natural History Society of Maryland

"Born" to Float Alone: The Natural History of Plankton

  • 15 Apr 2021
  • 7:00 PM - 8:00 PM
  • Online via Zoom


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Whoever coined the term, good things come in small packages, must have been thinking about plankton. Though small, they not only support entire food chains, but produce nearly 50% of the world’s oxygen.

The word “plankton” comes from the Greek for “drifter” or “wanderer”. Not built for independent movement, these organisms are typically carried laterally by tides, currents (or wind). NOTE: some have the ability to swim vertically hundreds of meters in a day.

The most basic taxonomic categories of plankton are phytoplankton (plants) and zooplankton (animals), but that is but the tip of plankton biodiversity which are classified more by ecological niche and mode of motility rather than phylogenetics. Some plankton remain such their entire lives. For others, plankton is one life stage. They include producers, consumers, and decomposers, some have the ability to switch their energy consumption strategies.

Dr. Jamie Pierson, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science Horn Point Laboratory, will lead us on an incredible journey in and amongst these amazing organisms.

Dr. Pierson is a biological oceanographer that focuses on zooplankton ecology and specifically the interactions between zooplankton, their predators and prey, and their habitat. Much of my work is done with copepods, tiny crustacean zooplankton that are probably the most numerous organism on earth. Copepods are found nearly anywhere on earth where we find water, from the bottom of the ocean to high mountain lakes. Their role in the food web is to graze on phytoplankton and small protists, and they provide food for fish, shellfish, and jellyfish. Their position in the middle of the food web is to mediate the flow of energy and material from the primary producers that harness the power of the sun, to the higher trophic levels like fish and shellfish that are economically important and ecological engineers.

The Natural History Society of Maryland is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation and contributions are tax-deductible.

The mission of the Natural History Society of Maryland is to foster stewardship of Maryland’s natural heritage by conserving its natural history collections, educating its citizenry, and inspiring its youth to pursue careers in the natural sciences.

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