//
you're reading...

Biochemistry

A View from Above: Determining Protein Concentration in Phytoplankton by Satellites

References: Bae, Hyeonji; Lee, Dabin; Kang, Jae Joong; Lee, Jae Hyung; Jo, Naeun; Kim, Kwanwoo; Jang, Hyo Keun; Kim, Myung Joon; Kim, Yejin; Kwon, Jae-Il; Lee, Sang Heon. (2021). Satellite-Derived Protein Concentration of Phytoplankton in the Southwestern East/Japan Sea. J. Mar. Sci. Eng. 9, 189-204.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/jmse9020189

Reading Time: 5 minutes

It is 12:30pm on a Tuesday and you decide it’s time for lunch. You pull out a tuna sandwich, some carrots, and an apple. All of these foods give you your daily essential nutrients like carbs, fats, and vitamins. Well, any animal needs the same things! We all eat to replenish the calories we have burned through activities like exercise, walking your dog, and even breathing. One crucial component of our diets is proteins. These large molecules are the machinery which makes our cells function! They are made out of smaller molecules called amino acids and perform a plethora of activities, like letting molecules into our cells, signaling the cell to divide, and defending against infectious diseases. Many animals, like ourselves, need to eat food to absorb these amino acids to build our own proteins. Scientists have been studying for years what types of food marine organisms eat and how their diet of protein affects their life. So, how can we tell how much protein is available to them to eat?

A map of the Japan Sea and the location of this study. Image Credit: Bae et. al.

A collective team of scientists from Pusan National University and the Marine Disaster Research Center (both in Busan, Korea) decided to investigate this question. The group decided to measure the concentration (or amount) of protein in phytoplankton as they are microscopic organisms at the base of many food chains in a marine ecoystem. They used satellites to image parts of the Japan Sea as well as some mathematical algorithms to estimate the amount of protein in phytoplankton. Specifically, the team was interested in how changing water conditions could affect the phytoplankton’s concentration of protein as they are highly sensitive to their environment. This study would be the first of its kind in the Japan Sea! Today, we are going to see what they found out.

What did they find?

The group found that phytoplankton could contain around 0.0000010013395948 pounds of protein per liter of seawater! While that may not seem like a lot, the Japan Sea is nearly 378,000 square miles big with an average depth of 5748 feet. That’s a lot of water! To compare their findings, the team took measurements of water at multiple sites in the Japan Sea. They found that their estimates fairly matched the actual concentrations! Throughout the seasons, the concentration could increase 3-fold, and they found that April, July, September, and October had the largest amount of protein in phytoplankton. However, the team found difficulties as their long-term data of protein concentrations (~15 years) did not follow any obvious trends like the shorter term measurements. Even so, the team highlights that the concentration of protein is highly related to chlorophyll and sea surface nitrate (SSN), other very important molecules phytoplankton need. These results agree with previous studies by other groups which show that amounts of chlorophyll and protein in phytoplankton are positively correlated (meaning their amounts are associated with each other, when one goes up so does the other).

A map of the protein concentration in the Japan Sea by month. Image Credit: Bae et. al.

How did they do it?

The team used satellite images from the MODIS satellite program to map the color of the ocean! While not only being pretty, the color of the ocean indicates many things like chlorophyll and phytoplankton populations! With this data, the group developed an algorithm which estimated the concentration of the protein in the imaged phytoplankton. To determine the accuracy of their algorithm, the group went to over 200 research stations in the Japan Sea to measure the chlorophyll, SSN, and amount of protein in the seawater themselves. With this data, the group could optimize the algorithm for more accurate results.

A phytoplankton bloom occurring in the Bay of Biscay. Look at the water’s color! Image Credit: NASA Goddard Photo and Video

Why does it matter?

This investigation tells us a lot about phytoplankton. They are the foundation of a plethora of food chains in the marine ecosystem, so it is extremely important to understand the types of nutrients they will give to organisms eating them! With this knowledge we can better understand how marine animals respond to changes in their food. All this information helps us comprehend the larger impacts of our changing climate and beyond.

Discussion

No comments yet.

Post a Comment

Instagram

  • by oceanbites 3 months ago
    Happy Earth Day! Take some time today to do something for the planet and appreciate the ocean, which covers 71% of the Earth’s surface.  #EarthDay   #OceanAppreciation   #Oceanbites   #CoastalVibes   #CoastalRI 
  • by oceanbites 4 months ago
    Not all outdoor science is fieldwork. Some of the best days in the lab can be setting up experiments, especially when you get to do it outdoors. It’s an exciting mix of problem solving, precision, preparation, and teamwork. Here is
  • by oceanbites 5 months ago
    Being on a research cruise is a unique experience with the open water, 12-hour working shifts, and close quarters, but there are some familiar practices too. Here Diana is filtering seawater to gather chlorophyll for analysis, the same process on
  • by oceanbites 6 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on  #oceanbites  we are featuring Hannah Collins  @hannahh_irene  Hannah works with marine suspension feeding bivalves and microplastics, investigating whether ingesting microplastics causes changes to the gut microbial community or gut tissues. She hopes to keep working
  • by oceanbites 6 months ago
    Leveling up - did you know that crabs have a larval phase? These are both porcelain crabs, but the one on the right is the earlier stage. It’s massive spine makes it both difficult to eat and quite conspicuous in
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Cierra Braga. Cierra works ultraviolet c (UVC) to discover how this light can be used to combat biofouling, or the growth of living things, on the hulls of ships. Here, you
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Elena Gadoutsis  @haysailor  These photos feature her “favorite marine research so far: From surveying tropical coral reefs, photographing dolphins and whales, and growing my own algae to expose it to different
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on Oceanbites we are featuring Eliza Oldach. According to Ellie, “I study coastal communities, and try to understand the policies and decisions and interactions and adaptations that communities use to navigate an ever-changing world. Most of
  • by oceanbites 8 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Jiwoon Park with a little photographic help from Ryan Tabata at the University of Hawaii. When asked about her research, Jiwoon wrote “Just like we need vitamins and minerals to stay
  • by oceanbites 8 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on  #Oceanbites  we are featuring  @riley_henning  According to Riley, ”I am interested in studying small things that make a big impact in the ocean. Right now for my master's research at the University of San Diego,
  • by oceanbites 8 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Gabby Stedman. Gabby is interested in interested in understanding how many species of small-bodied animals there are in the deep-sea and where they live so we can better protect them from
  • by oceanbites 8 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Shawn Wang! Shawn is “an oceanographer that studies ocean conditions of the past. I use everything from microfossils to complex computer models to understand how climate has changed in the past
  • by oceanbites 9 months ago
    Today we are highlighting some of our awesome new authors for  #WriterWednesday  Today we have Daniel Speer! He says, “I am driven to investigate the interface of biology, chemistry, and physics, asking questions about how organisms or biological systems respond
  • by oceanbites 9 months ago
    Here at Oceanbites we love long-term datasets. So much happens in the ocean that sometimes it can be hard to tell if a trend is a part of a natural cycle or actually an anomaly, but as we gather more
  • by oceanbites 10 months ago
    Have you ever seen a lobster molt? Because lobsters have exoskeletons, every time they grow they have to climb out of their old shell, leaving them soft and vulnerable for a few days until their new shell hardens. Young, small
  • by oceanbites 10 months ago
    A lot of zooplankton are translucent, making it much easier to hide from predators. This juvenile mantis shrimp was almost impossible to spot floating in the water, but under a dissecting scope it’s features really come into view. See the
  • by oceanbites 11 months ago
    This is a clump of Dead Man’s Fingers, scientific name Codium fragile. It’s native to the Pacific Ocean and is invasive where I found it on the east coast of the US. It’s a bit velvety, and the coolest thing
  • by oceanbites 11 months ago
    You’ve probably heard of jellyfish, but have you heard of salps? These gelatinous sea creatures band together to form long chains, but they can also fall apart and will wash up onshore like tiny gemstones that squish. Have you seen
  • by oceanbites 12 months ago
    Check out what’s happening on a cool summer research cruise! On the  #neslter  summer transect cruise, we deployed a tow sled called the In Situ Icthyoplankton Imaging System. This can take pictures of gelatinous zooplankton (like jellyfish) that would be
  • by oceanbites 1 year ago
    Did you know horseshoe crabs have more than just two eyes? In these juveniles you can see another set in the middle of the shell. Check out our website to learn about some awesome horseshoe crab research.  #oceanbites   #plankton   #horseshoecrabs 
WP2Social Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com