The First Flight Phyto-Finders is a group of high school students who collect and analyze phytoplankton off the North Carolina coast as part of the NOAA Phytoplankton Monitoring Network. Recently, four Phyto-Finders were able to visit Woods Hole on Cape Cod (Figure 1). We are the fourth group to do so, using the funds the IEEE Oceanic Engineering Society generously provides to support our research and education.
We recently began to extract DNA from our samples, a supplement to our established microscope examinations. The extracted genetic material is sent to one of our mentors, Dr. Hilary G. Morrison, at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) in Woods Hole, where it is sequenced and analyzed to better understand the makeup and variability of the microbial and phytoplankton communities in the waters off the Outer Banks. While in Woods Hole, we learned some of the procedures required to process our samples (Figure 2). We also began learning about how the processed information is used and interpreted (Figure 3).
Although our club is focused on phytoplankton collection and research, we explored beyond our scope: we also toured the Deep Submergence Lab at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the Marine Resources Center of MBL (Figure 4). And, while staying at their house, our mentors and hosts, Dr. Archie Todd Morrison III and Dr. Hilary G. Morrison, patiently reviewed and edited our papers for the upcoming OCEANS Conference in Charleston. We are eager to attend and to present at our first scientific conference this fall.