Zooplankton Ecology

One of the major challenges when modeling any system is the magnitude of the uncertainties present in the system. In oceanography, the uncertainties in biogeochemical models regarding the metazoan contribution are significantly large. Dr. Leocadio Blanco-Bercial’s research is focused on quantitatively investigating how diversity (in its many facets) is responsible for a portion of those uncertainties, and identifying how the nature of the open ocean environment shapes diversity from the surface to the deep ocean. He uses a suite of approaches to address these questions, both directly and via collaboration with other researchers. The goals of his research are to understand how diversity originates and is maintained in the open ocean, and to integrate metazoan diversity measurements into the primary ocean biogeochemical models.

Using imaging and molecular metabarcoding tools, his current projects include studying different facets of the hyper-diverse eukaryotic planktonic community at the Bermuda Atlantic Time-series Study (BATS) site, as well as the vertical characterization of the planktonic community in the epi- and the mesopelagic (from surface to 1000m depth) in the North Pacific and North Atlantic Oceans. In conjunction with the BIOS-SCOPE project, this research extends into the interactions of the metazoans with the prokaryotic and protist communities in the Sargasso Sea.

Together with BIOS research specialist Tim Noyes, he has developed an eDNA protocol to track the reef fish community in Bermuda. Blanco-Bercial also works in the terrestrial environment, searching caves for ancient crustacean lineages unique to the island of Bermuda.

Blanco-Bercial is also actively engaged in teaching at BIOS (marine plankton ecology and marine invertebrate zoology) and in broader impact activities.

In the News

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ASU Announces New School of Ocean Futures

A new simulation video game developed in collaboration with BIOS researchers is set to debut on the gaming platform Steam in late November 2022. Created by sound designer José González, subROV: Underwater Discoveries puts players behind the controls of a deep-ocean remotely operated vehicle (ROV). Drawing inspiration from his love of ocean exploration, as well as real-world scientific investigations and ROV expeditions, González produced a series of simulated dives for players to pilot their ROV through.

Ocean Exploration Through Video Game Simulation: “subROV”

Samples from waters off Bermuda have revealed an exciting discovery for a team of researchers led by Josué G. Millán, PhD candidate at Indiana State University: 40 new species of undescribed coccolithophores, a type of phytoplankton. BIOS zooplankton ecologist Leocadio Blanco-Bercial, who was also involved with the project, says the Sargasso Sea is “one of the world’s hotspots for plankton biodiversity.” Shown here is a previously identified species from Bermuda, as the new species are currently being described by taxonomists in preparation for publication in a scientific journal. Ceratolithus cristatus, photographed at 12,900x magnification, collected from a depth of 65 feet (20 meters).

A Big Commotion about Bermuda’s Coccolithophores

From June 12 to 18, educators from 10 universities and colleges across the U.S. took part in a workshop designed to help build critical thinking and data analysis skills in students through the use of real-world atmospheric and oceanographic data sets. Funded by a National Science Foundation grant, the “High Dive into Data” workshop was an opportunity to share a new educational resource: the BIOS DataBytes website. DataBytes was launched in late 2020 in partnership with the Biological and Chemical Oceanographic and Data Management Office (BCO-DMO), the ocean science data repository of NSF, and Your Ocean Consulting, LLC. The site offers curated sets of downloadable data files, as well as introductions to the thematic units and supporting multimedia resources, such as interactive maps, photographs, and videos.

Delivering on the Demand for Data

Coots spends hours on small boats offshore Bermuda collecting samples with a net from the surface down to about 500 feet (150 meters) depth, where surface light begins to fade, then isolating and imaging radiolarians from samples using a glass pipette and microscope. Photo by Hannah Gossner

A Sign of Summer: Students on Campus

Emma O’Donnell, 23, who grew up in Pembroke, Bermuda and participated in years of educational programs at BIOS, will spend the next two years at the University of Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship. Photo by Ella Claire Morgan.

Next Stop: Oxford University

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From Ocean Academy Student to BIOS Research Technician

BIOS zooplankton ecologist Amy Maas (left) worked on research vessel Atlantic Explorer readying the MOCNESS, an acronym for Multiple Opening/Closing Net and Environmental Sensing System, used for collecting tiny marine life. Arizona State University student Yuuki Niimi, who took this photo during a late 2021 cruise, joined Maas and others in the BIOS “Zoop Group.” This lab, run by Maas and marine ecologist Lecadio Blanco-Bercial, is dedicated to the study of zooplankton. With Maas adjusting the net were BIOS research technicians Hannah Gossner and Dom Smith. Photo by Yuuki Niimi.

New Faces in the “Zoop Group”

Participants of a two-day climate workshop hosted by BIOS and the U.S. Consulate General in Bermuda gathered at the Institute for lectures and laboratory work in early November. The workshop took place during a significant time, when global leaders (including Walter Roban, Deputy Premier and Minister of Home Affairs in the Government of Bermuda) attended the 26th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26) in Scotland to discuss the observable effects that climate change has on the environment and commit to action.

A Climate Connection for College Students