Phytoplankton are microscopic plants that drift in the ocean.
Although often "invisible" to the naked eye, these plants drive all marine ecological communities and the life within them.
Marine life at the microscopic scale of one-celled algae and zooplankton ("floating aquatic animals") holds the key to understanding the vast ocean as a whole.
Together, phytoplankton and zooplankton form the basis for all life in the sea.
Within the Center for the Culture of Marine Phytoplankton, they maintain the largest collection of marine phytoplankton in the world - a temperature-controlled habitat for thousands of microscopic marine species that are available for use by researchers in universities, government, and industry worldwide.
This "garden" represents more than one-fifth of all the phytoplankton species in our oceans!
Light is an essential part of life in the ocean.
During photosynthesis, phytoplankton absorb sunlight, grow, and generate oxygen.
The patterns of phytoplankton blooms show up as different intensities of reflected light in the ocean, and can be seen and studied with remote sensing imagery.
Depending on the kinds and quantity of the plankton communities there, these images allow us to see the living process of the open ocean in different seasons and even at different times of day.