From Sea to Space to Phytopia kirsten Carlson's art intersects phytopia's science

Kirsten Carlson is a scientific illustrator who studied marine science and communication. As the Schmidt Ocean Institute's Artist-at-Sea during the "Sea to Space Particle Investigation," she and researchers used the latest technologies to study Pacific Ocean plankton between Honolulu and Portland.

Phytoplankton – microscopic plants & algae – are simple yet incredibly diverse. Many convert carbon dixode into oxygen, an impressive feat for the tiniest members of the marine food web!

We have created an interactive online tool to explore phytoplankton. Kirsten's art is a beautiful way to introduce some of the species featured in the world we call "Phytopia."

Diatom (Feb 12th @ 2:57)
Chaetoceros is a very large genus of diatoms with approximately 400 species. Chaetoceros debillis is a very common species in temperate waters of the Pacific Ocean. Each cell has long, thin bristles that extend outward from four corners, helping it stay suspended in seawater.
Dinoflagellates (Feb 6 @ 22:15 & Feb 9 @ 5:36)
Although Ceratium can swim, its horns help to slow sinking by increasing its surface area. The length and shape of horns can vary with water temperature and salinity. For example, horns are thicker in cold, salty water and thinner in warmer, less salty water.
Diatom (Feb 13 @ 2:57)
Forming floating mats that can be extensive enough to be seen from space, Rhizosolenia species have pointed ends resembling the tips of ink pens. Rhizosolenia mats transport nitrogen from depth to the ocean's surface, providing a key source of nutrients for organisms in these upper waters.

Phytoplankton play a major role in the carbon cycle by exporting matter from the ocean surface. They use dissolved carbon dioxide to build their cells. When they die, their bodies can sink to depths for months to thousands of years, thereby removing carbon from contact with the atmosphere.

Kirsten's depiction of "The Carbon Cycle" highlights key members of the food web along with biological and chemical processes needed to support life on Earth.

The Schmidt Ocean Institute's "Sea to Space Particle Investigation" was aimed at improving our understanding of how Earth’s living marine resources and carbon sequestration are responding to rising carbon dioxide levels as well as climate changes.

The online tool, Phytopia, lets you explore phytoplankton by species' names, their environmental roles, or characteristics. You can also learn how the upcoming PACE mission will provide NASA's most advanced ocean color measurements ever!

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