It’s always great to launch a new project! Plankton Portal allows you to explore the open ocean from the comfort of your own home. You can dive hundreds of feet deep, and observe the unperturbed ocean and the myriad animals that inhabit the earth’s last frontier.
The goal of the site is to classify underwater images in order to study plankton. We’ve teamed up with researchers at the University of Miami and Oregon State University who want to understand the distribution and behaviour of plankton in the open ocean.
The site shows you one of millions of plankton images taken by the In Situ Ichthyoplankton Imaging System (ISIIS), a unique underwater robot engineered at the University of Miami. ISIIS operates as an ocean scanner that casts the shadow of tiny and transparent oceanic creatures onto a very high resolution digital sensor at very high frequency. So far, ISIIS has been used in several oceans around the world to detect the presence of larval fish, small crustaceans and jellyfish in ways never before possible. This new technology can help answer important questions ranging from how do plankton disperse, interact and survive in the marine environment, to predicting the physical and biological factors could influence the plankton community.
The dataset used for Plankton Portal comes a period of just three days in Fall 2010. In three days, they collected so much data that would take more than three years to analyze it themselves. That’s why they need your help! A computer will probably be able to tell the difference between major classes of organisms, such as a shrimp versus a jellyfish, but to distinguish different species within an order or family, that is still best done by the human eye.
If you want to help, you can visit http://www.planktonportal.org. A field guide is provided, and there is a simple tutorial. The science team will be on Plankton Portal Talk to answer any questions, and the project is also on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.