The LUMCON Phytoplankton Group

Phytoplankton community composition studies over a range of habitats have been ongoing in coastal waters since 1989 when Dr. Quay Dortch established the harmful algal bloom (HAB) research and phytoplankton monitoring program at LUMCON in collaboration with Dr. Nancy Rabalais’ Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia research program. Upon Dr. Dortch’s departure in 2003, Dr. Rabalais took over her programs and research group, allowing for the continuation of data collection in the same locations.

Over the years the LUMCON Phytoplankton Group has conducted research projects in the Barataria, Terrebonne, and Pontchartrain estuaries and coastal Louisiana offshore waters (Map). The distribution of samples extends from the Mississippi River delta to the middle Texas coast, from near shore to as far as 100 km offshore. Collections include monthly phytoplankton samples from transects off Terrebonne and Atchafalaya Bays, and annual shelf-wide mid-summer transects. In addition to these marine samples, the LUMCON Phytoplankton Group has been participating in a monthly transect of 37 stations along the axis of the Barataria Basin (a highly eutrophic system with a wide range of salinities and residence times) since January 1994. The transect spans from a freshwater stream entering Lac des Allemands on the north through an estuarine tidal pass near Grand Isle, Louisiana, on the south.

In addition to routine phytoplankton monitoring efforts, the Phytoplankton Group also provides assistance with taxonomic identification and enumeration on samples of suspected harmful algal blooms collected by state and federal water quality officials, or from the general public.

Current Personnel

Dr. Nancy Rabalais, LUMCON’s Executive Director and Professor. Dr. Rabalais has been conducting research on coastal ecosystems since 1976 in Texas continental shelf waters and in estuaries and coastal waters of Louisiana and other Gulf states since 1983 when she joined LUMCON. Her work addresses ecosystem level processes related to eutrophication and hypoxia, including the associated phytoplankton communities and processes.

Dr. Geoff Sinclair, Assistant Professor. Arriving at LUMCON in 2008, Dr. Sinclair studies the physiology of phytoplankton, especially the harmful algal forms, the spatial and temporal trends in phytoplankton community composition and the mechanisms that are responsible for the changes that have been observed in these assemblages.

Wendy Morrison, Senior Research Associate. A member of the Phytoplankton Group since 1999, she is responsible for taxonomic identifications and enumeration of species from marine and freshwater samples, as well as managing the day to day activities of the lab. Ms. Morrison designed the Guide organizational structure and layout, created the shape and colony search thumbnails, summarized the taxonomic descriptions for each taxon, photographed the Lugols and unpreserved samples necessary to complete the Guide, and collated and uploaded the data for all of the photographs.

Danielle Richardi, Research Assistant. Joining the Phytoplankton Group in 2008, she assists in the processing and enumeration of freshwater and estuarine samples and is responsible for HPLC analysis of water samples collected on monthly Gulf of Mexico research transects.

Past Personnel

Dr. Quay Dortch, 1989-2003. As Associate Professor at LUMCON, Dr. Dortch led research programs studying phytoplankton community composition, how they utilize and are limited by nutrients, toxin production in Pseudo-nitzschia, and salinity tolerance of Karenia brevis. She is currently Program Coordinator for NOAA’s Ecology and Oceanography of Harmful Algal Blooms (ECOHAB) Program and retains Adjunct Faculty status at LUMCON.

Dr. Michael Parsons, 1996-1999. While working on his PhD research at LUMCON, Dr. Parsons assisted Dr. Dortch in taxonomic investigations of Gulf of Mexico phytoplankton communities and other research projects. He is currently Associate Professor and Acting Director in the Department of Marine and Ecological Sciences, Coastal Watershed Institute, Florida Gulf Coast University.

Assisted with research projects, taxonomic identifications and enumeration of species from freshwater and marine samples:

  • Warren Mendenhall, 1996-2007
  • Alisa Maier-Brown, 1999- 2006
  • Keska Kemper, 2000-2002
  • Anne Thessen, 2001-2002
  • Dr. Ling Ren, 2003-2007

Conducted HPLC analysis of water samples collected on monthly Gulf of Mexico research transects:

  • Claire Normandeau, 1998-2000
  • Dr. Nazan Atilla, 2001-2007