Scope of the LUMCON Phytoplankton Guide

The goal of this project was to make available to the public the extensive photo library and accumulated taxonomic knowledge of the LUMCON Phytoplankton Group, and to assist when possible with identification. It is our hope that this resource will be useful to researchers, educators, and resource managers charged with protecting water quality.

It was beyond the scope of this project to undertake detailed taxonomic investigations, and thus we rely on taxonomic resources in the published literature (References), as well as observations of the LUMCON Phytoplankton Group, to provide characteristic features for each taxon. We emphasize cell features that are most likely to be visible with standard microscopy, since access to scanning electron microscopes is often not feasible. With each photograph we provide environmental data, such as salinity, sample location and date.

The organisms included in this Guide come from an in-house species list of taxa encountered since 1989 by the LUMCON Phytoplankton Group in the course of research projects conducted in the Barataria, Terrebonne, and Pontchartrain estuaries and coastal Louisiana offshore waters. The original purpose of the in-house photo database was to develop an internal tool for consistency across personnel as well as to document species encountered. The photographs in the original database reflected the methodology used by the Phytoplankton Group: epifluorescent and transmitted light micrographs taken from water samples filtered through 8 μm polycarbonate filters. Since it was our desire for the Guide to be as multi-purpose as possible, we produced photographs using other common methodologies, e.g., live material as well as Lugols preserved samples observed under an inverted microscope.

Understanding the reality of balancing time spent on species-level identifications and the need to enumerate samples in a timely fashion, the LUMCON Phytoplankton Group sometimes creates broader descriptive categories when species-level identifications are too time consuming or not particularly informative. Although these generalities are not desirable, they are acceptable for non-harmful, routinely encountered species. We feel that these broader categories are useful for inclusion because they are a record of what is present and might be encountered by the Guide users.

The quality of photographs for less common species is sometimes less than ideal, but we elected to include a select number of these as a record of presence. Should better photographs be generated in the future, they will replace the current photos.

Every effort has been made to ensure the information in this Guide is accurate to the best of our abilities.