Assistant Professor of Biology Emily Brownlee was recently awarded a $21,840 grant from the National Science Foundation for her project titled: Collaborative Research FSML: PhytoChop: An estuarine phytoplankton observatory (Award Number: 2022966). The two-year award began August 1, and will help fund Brownlee’s collaborative research with the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES- Horn Point Laboratory).
With this grant, the researchers will establish the PhytoChop Coastal Observatory, an advanced autonomous instrument array designed to monitor the composition and photosynthetic activity of the phytoplankton community, together with water column nutrient and optical properties. The PhytoChop Coastal Observatory will be housed at Horn Point Laboratory’s research pier situated on the Choptank River, a tidal sub-estuary of the Chesapeake Bay.
Brownlee will be responsible for setting up and analyzing instrumentation data, and will help curate and expand the imaging library. Furthermore, Brownlee will coordinate with her collaborators at UMCES to synthesize results from the integration of Imaging FlowCytobot data with other PhytoChop instrumentation.
I’m excited to be a part of founding one of the first observatories to combine high-resolution plankton imaging and plankton health measurements at very small timescales. Along with measuring environmental parameters, this can provide unprecedented insight into how phytoplankton, such as those contributing to harmful algal blooms, are responding to long-term environmental and climate change. To have such an observatory on the Chesapeake Bay is a long-time dream of mine and I look forward to integrating observatory data into my courses and supplying St. Mary’s Project students with a lot of data in years to come!