Schnetzer Lab

Plankton Ecology

Research in the Schnetzer lab focuses on the ecology of protists and zooplankton which comprise numerous taxa and play diverse ecological roles within aquatic ecosystems. Protists are major primary producers (algae or phytoplankton) and consumers (e.g., ciliates) at the base of the food web. Zooplankton (e.g., copepods or shrimp) are important consumers of protists (and each other) and in turn preyed upon by shellfish, fish and marine mammals. My lab is interested in how natural and anthropogenic processes shape plankton assemblages and how changes in protistan and/or zooplankton community structure impact biogeochemical cycles in freshwater, coastal and open ocean environments.

The Plankton Ecology Lab - Summer 2018

From left to right: Gabrielle Corradino (PhD candidate), Nolynn Powell (undergraduate), Astrid Schnetzer (PI), Aubree Szczepanski (MS candidate), Miranda Irby (undergraduate), Marco Valera (research technician)

Why do plankton community structure and diversity matter?

Plankton assemblages are highly dynamic and restructure in response to changes in biological and environmental factors. Communities can be characterized by high species diversity or can become dominated by a group of organisms or yet single species. An example of how a shift to few or one species can impact an entire ecosystem is seen during harmful algal blooms. These events often disrupt entire food webs, can lead to a drawdown of dissolved oxygen in harbor environments causing fish kills or, through the trophic transfer of algal toxins, cause sickness and death in mammals and birds and even humans. We are interested in how changes in plankton community structure link to ecosystem function.

Research Approach and Current Projects

We study plankton assemblages by employing traditional (culturing and microscopy) and cutting-edge molecular methods (gene-based approaches) in field studies and laboratory trials.


Copyright © 2016 A. Schnetzer; materials or images may not be redistributed or used without written permission