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Publication Date


Document Type

Honors Project


Biological Sciences


Ciliates, Protists, Dinoflagellates, Ocean zoning, Marine microbial ecology, Biodiversity, Morphology, Photic zone, Marine, Ocean


Microbes represent the bulk of biodiversity on Earth, including within the oceans that cover more than two third of our planet. Yet microbes remain under-investigated within the context of Earth's biodiversity. As soon as we step outside, the vast range of plant and animal diversity is omnipresent as they are visible to the ‘naked eye'; however, because the realm of microbes escapes our vision, this hidden world is often overlooked. Despite the limited focus on microbes, microbial eukaryotes (i.e. protists) occupy a central role in the planktonic food web providing a bridge between the bacteria, and the "classical" food web comprised of larger organisms (Pinet, 2011). Nonetheless, studies focusing on the pivotal position of protists in the base of the oceanic food web are rare. In this study I evaluate the eukaryotic community compositions of "deep layer" samples from a transect sampled during a research cruise in the North Atlantic. My goal is to determine the relationship between the diversity of eukaryotic microbes and the previously characterized ciliate communities from deep sites. I chose the "deep layer" because protist biodiversity is believed to be limited below the photic layer, an assumption that was challenged by previous work in our lab. Of the 39 nine sampling stations taken during the cruise off the coast of Rhode Island, I chose seven stations from different locations ranging from inshore to offshore. The results show that the eukaryotic community is relatively constant along the transect, which contrasts with the ciliate community. This highlights the importance of further research because it is unknown what drives ciliate community dynamics as our attempts to measure abiotic and biotic correlates have not yielded any significant predictor of microbial diversity.




69 pages : illustrations (chiefly color), map. Honors project-Smith College, 2015. Includes bibliographical references (pages 40-44)