Allison Cusick (Woman Scientist)

We had a wonderful presentation, April 26th, thanks to Allison Cusick (Woman Scientist), who spoke about her work with FjordPhyto by Vernet Lab… We learned a lot about Fjords, Phytoplankton and what they are.

Fjords are narrow inlets along the coast with steep sided valleys carved by past glaciers. They can mainly be found in the Arctic, Norway, Greenland, Iceland, Canada, Alaska, Antarctica, Chile, and New Zealand. Antarctic fjords along the west Antarctic Peninsula are thought to be hotspots for biodiversity, providing refuge for krill and whale aggregations.

Phytoplankton are microscopic, plant-like creatures  that drift in the ocean using sunlight to make energy through a process called photosynthesis.

  1. They make up the foundation of the food system, supporting all other animals such as whales, seals, and penguins.
  2. They play a critical role in the global carbon cycle, drawing carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and into the deep ocean.
  3. They contribute to over half of the Earth’s oxygen — more than the trees and plants on land combined!

Image credit: BBC

A food web is a way of representing how energy and matter flow between different organisms in an ecosystem. The first link starts with organisms called primary producers, they use sunlight to make energy. Think of phytoplankton in the ocean as being the same as grass and plants on land! They are eaten by other organisms like little swimming ocean animals called zooplankton! The most important zooplankton in the Antarctic ecosystem is the krill.  These are then eaten by larger animals such as fish, birds, seals, and whales!

Inserts and picture from

Photos by Marie Ag 

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