Celebrating 90 years of the Guinness World Record Holding Continuous Plankton Recorder Survey

Join our event to celebrate 90 years of surveys crisscrossing our globe!

Confirmed Speakers

Prof. Richard Thompson OBE FRS, University of Plymouth

Richard is a Professor of Marine Biology and Director of the University of Plymouth, Marine Institute. He is a world expert on plastic pollution. In 2004, he published the first paper describing the accumulation of microscopic fragments of plastic in the environment, naming them microplastics. He and his team have been at the forefront of microplastics research showing their global distribution, the potential for transfer from the gut to the circulatory system, and their role in the transport of chemicals. This pioneering work was pivotal in recognition of microplastic contamination in policy, such as Marine Strategy Framework Directive.

Dr. Sonia Batten, PICES (North Pacific Marine Science Organization)

Sonia has background as a biological oceanographer, studying zooplankton in particular, their dynamics and role at the base of the marine food chain. She started her post-doc career with the Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science in 1994, who operated the Continuous Plankton Recorder (CPR) Survey, and moved to western Canada in 2000 to coordinate the fledgling North Pacific CPR Survey. After seeing it through two decades she took up a new position in April 2020 with the North Pacific Marine Science Organization (PICES) as its Executive Secretary. PICES is an Intergovernmental Science Organization that seeks to advance knowledge and understanding of the ecosystems of the North Pacific Ocean through collaboration and cooperation.

The North Pacific CPR Survey - From conception to coming of age.

The first conversations about a North Pacific CPR Survey took place 30 years ago and within a decade of those murmurings a routine survey was a reality. At the time of this celebration the CPR has been collecting data for over 21 years in the North Pacific, including a recent expansion into the Arctic. This presentation will cover the background and challenges, how the survey evolved and found solutions through collaborations, and present some of the scientific highlights. North Pacific CPR data now contribute to regular ecosystem assessments by a variety of agencies/organizations in the region, and there is an extensive contribution to the scientific literature on a wide range of topics. The North Pacific CPR Survey has come of age.

Ass. Prof. Abigail McQuatters-Gollop, University of Plymouth

Abigail is a plankton ecologist and Associate Professor in Marine Conservation at University of Plymouth. She is a Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) Knowledge Exchange Fellow and Defra Senior Policy Fellow and leads the implementation of the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive for pelagic habitats (UK and OSPAR (The Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment)). Abigail's research focuses on impact generation through the integration of scientific evidence into the policy process. Key areas of interest lie in the separation of climate responses in the plankton from those due to anthropogenic disturbances, applying a systems thinking approach to the implementation of nature-based solutions, and linking biodiversity state changes to human pressures.

The CPR as a key tool for policy delivery

Ecological time-series data are essential for informing management and policy, particularly in supporting the new generation of marine legislative drivers, which take a holistic ecosystem approach to management. In Europe, for example, the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) seeks to achieve Good Environmental Status (GES) of European seas, while at the global scale UN Sustainable Development Goal SDG14 strives to "Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development". These instruments recognise the importance of plankton communities in marine ecosystems, but appropriate biodiversity data are needed to support their implementation, assessment, and reporting. Uniquely, the CPR Survey provides such ecological data at the appropriate spatial, temporal and taxonomic scales critical for delivery of these policy objectives. The CPR time-series plays a key role in biodiversity policy through enabling the development and informing of biodiversity indicators, informing the setting of targets against a background of climate change, and providing supporting information used to interpret change in non-plankton indicators in the UK, Europe, and globally. It is crucial that the CPR time-series obtains consistent long-term funding to continue to supply vital ecological information required to informed evidence-based environmental policy. 

Prof. John Spicer, University of Plymouth

John is an ecophysiologist interested in the effect of environmental drivers (namely elevated temperature, reduced pH and oxygen) on marine invertebrates, whose books include Biodiversity: An Introduction (1998, 2006), Biodiversity: a beginners guide 2006, 2012, Physiological Diversity (2000), The Invertebrates: a synthesis and around 200 peer reviewed papers in the international literature. 

Antony J. Richardson, University of Queensland and CSIRO

The importance of identifying copepods to species: developing indicators of climate variability and change in Australian waters.

Indicators are increasingly used in assessments of the health of marine ecosystems. Because it is more expensive and time consuming to collect and count species rather than use bulk indices from satellite or towed instruments, the value of species-level data is still debated. Here, we explore the power of using copepod species to develop indicators of climate variability and change. We use a number of case studies from Australian waters to highlight the importance of species. These examples emphasise that species are more sensitive ecosystem indicators than bulk indicators such as biomass. We believe that to measure current changes in marine ecosystems, a species-level approach is needed

Prof. Willie Wilson, Marine Biological Association

Prof Willie Wilson is a self-described “virus evangelist,” spreading the good word through research, collaboration, and outreach on how viruses are lubricants of the great engines of planetary control. Willie’s research focuses on the diverse roles of marine viruses; including algal viruses, giant viruses, coral viruses, persistent virus infections, and the paradox of how viruses are necessary for life

Dr. Tom Doyle, University College Cork

Tom is a Lecturer in Zoology in the School of Biological, Earth & Environmental Sciences, University College Cork. His primary research focuses on understanding the ecology of gelatinous zooplankton from mapping their broadscale distribution, building jellyfish time series, investigating their socio-economic impacts (e.g. aquaculture and fisheries interactions) and associated pathophysiology (inc. First Aid for treatment of jellyfish stings), and investigating the trophic interactions of jellyfish. He also uses biotelemetry (acoustic and satellite) to investigate the movement ecology of jellyfish and jellyfish predators (leatherback sea turtles and sunfish). Tom has 63 papers in peer-reviewed journals and h-index of 33.

Using the CPR jellyfish counts to understand trends in the abundance of ocean sunfish

Almost nothing is known about the historical abundance of the rarely targeted ocean sunfish (Mola spp.). Yet, as an ecologically important and functionally distinct taxa, understanding changes in its abundance may be a useful indicator of how fish may respond to climate change. Within this context, sightings from a coastal bird observatory over a 47 year period provided the first long-term index of sunfish abundance. Using a GLM with a hurdle to deal with imperfect detectability and to model trends, a higher probability of detecting sunfish was found in the 1990s and 2000s. Continuous Plankton Recorder (CPR) phytoplankton colour indices and the annual mean position of the 13oC sea surface isotherm were significantly correlated with the probability of detecting sunfish. An increase in siphonophore abundance (measured by CPR) and used as a proxy of sunfish prey, was documented. However, this increase occurred 10-15 years after the sunfish increase is not considered a primary controlling factor. Our results suggest that the 1990s sunfish range expansion was driven by temperature changes, and not prey, and was concurrent with well-known range expansions for several other fish species.

Dr. (ret.) John Alistair Lindley

Alistair graduated in 1969 with University of London External degree in Botany and Zoology.
He was appointed as Assistant Experimental Officer at the Scottish Marine Biological Association Oceanographic Laboratory to work on the CPR survey and associated with the survey ever since with promotions, move from Edinburgh to Plymouth (1975) and changes to organisation names and locations. Specialist research include work on tintinnids, euphausiid and decapods (Ph. D. 1998) and co-operating in research on long-term trends and DNA analysis of samples.
Other related work included studies of vertical distributions, biodiversity, and resting eggs.

Conversations around the microscope: a personal history of the CPR Survey

An account of some of the people and events that have contributed to the success and reputation of the CPR survey

Dr. Clare Ostle, CPR Survey., The Marine Biological Association

Dr. Clare Ostle is a CPR research scientist and co-ordinator of the Pacific CPR Survey. Clare specialises in marine biogeochemistry, data integration, and data analysis. In particular, her interest's lie in exploring the links between environmental parameters and changes in the plankton community. Her research focuses on the use of CPR data for investigating a broad range of topics including; the operationalization of ecological indicators for European marine policy, ocean warming, fisheries, oceanic plastics, and the marine carbon cycle. She is an active member of numerous working groups including the UK Pelagic Habitats Expert Group, and Gulf Watch Alaska.

The Continuous Plankton/Plastic/the Possibilities are endless! Recorder

The CPR survey has been collecting plankton samples using ships-of-opportunity since 1931, and has sampled over 7 million nautical miles. These samples have primarily been used to investigate changes in the plankton, however they represent a snapshot of items caught on the recorder and in the mesh at that time, and samples are fixed and stored within a controlled biological library. With other long-running CPR surveys in the Southern Ocean and North Pacific, and more recently around Australia, in the Mediterranean Sea, South Atlantic and off Southern Africa, there is the potential to assess key global issues. In this talk we will explore some of these global issues, focusing on oceanic plastics. Open ocean time-series of plastics are few and far between due to the effort in maintaining consistent sampling and associated analysis costs. The CPR provides a record of some of the earliest samples and documentation of oceanic plastics, entanglement and litter. As a consequence, this dataset has made significant contributions to understanding the fate of oceanic plastic. The consistent collection and careful curation of CPR samples, means that as technologies advance and techniques further progress, the possibilities for time-series analysis are truly endless! 

Prof. Charles H. Greene, Ocean Visions

Charles Greene is a Senior Fellow and member of the Leadership Team for Ocean Visions. He received his PhD in Oceanography from the University of Washington and spent a year as a postdoctoral scholar at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. He was a Professor at Cornell University from 1986 to 2021. Dr. Greene's research interests include the impacts of climate change on marine ecosystems, the ecological dynamics of marine animal populations, ocean-observing technology, and the development of sustainable ocean solutions to the global challenges of climate, energy, and food security.

Northwest Atlantic Continuous Plankton Recorder Survey: Ecosystem Regime Shifts and the Conservation Oceanography of the North Atlantic Right Whale 

Decadal-scale regime shifts observed in the Northwest Atlantic prior to 2010 were linked to a natural mode of high-latitude climate variability, the Arctic Oscillation. The Labrador Current system mediated these downstream effects by advecting variable amounts of cooler and less saline subpolar waters southwestward into the region. In contrast, a new ecosystem regime appears to have emerged since 2010. This new regime is not a consequence of remote forcing from the Arctic. Instead, we hypothesize that it is linked to the historically unprecedented warming that has been observed in the region for the past decade. Here, we describe the insights provided by Continuous Plankton Recorder and other time-series data sets, revealing how changes in ocean circulation processes and the ecosystem have altered the foraging environment and habitat use of right whales, reducing the population's calving rate and exposing it to greater risks of serious injury and mortality from ships strikes and fishing gear entanglement.

Dr. Pierre Hélaouët, CPR Survey., The Marine Biological Association

Pierre Hélaouët is a senior numerical ecologist at the Continuous Plankton Recorder (CPR) team as well a data scientist at the Marine Biological Association (MBA). His research is focused on developing and using ecological concepts, statistical analysis and data processing to explain spatio-temporal variability in planktonic communities. Specialised in marine ecosystems, he has published papers dealing with ecological niche concepts, mesoscale ecology, spatial and temporal dynamics, and trophic interactions. Pierre is also leading the iCPR project, aiming at enhancing the existing CPR platform by integrating disruptive technologies within the most geographically extensive marine biological survey in the world.

The iCPR project: integrating disruptive technologies within the most geographically extensive marine biological survey in the world

A year ago, the CPR was awarded some funding by a prestigious private foundation to develop the next generation of tools required to help manage our oceans and the services they provide. This innovative project, called integrative CPR (iCPR), is bringing together innovative modern sensing technology (e.g. in-situ sensors and imaging), leading scientific authorities (e.g. in taxonomy, ecology and oceanography) and state-of-the-art artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques (e.g. automatic image classification and measurements, species abundance forecast). At this stage, the iCPR remains a pilot project demonstrating the potential of merging human capabilities with the power of machines. However, the real potential of such a comprehensive platform relies on our capacity to ensure this global deployment. Starting around the U.K., a stepwise replacement of each existing CPRs by fully equipped iCPR would gradually help the scientific community unravelling the complex links between biodiversity and the environment.

Marianne Wootton, CPR Survey., The Marine Biological Association

Marianne is Senior Plankton Analyst at CPR Survey. Having worked for the organisation as a Plankton Analyst since 2002, she has a wealth of experience in phytoplankton and zooplankton identification from around the world. Marianne’s taxonomic expertise is regularly used to teach plankton identification to a wide range of learners, from university students to other research scientists. She is co-author on a plankton guide to the North Atlantic and, in collaboration with the NE Atlantic Marine Biological Analytical Quality Control Scheme (NMBAQC), is the lead developer of an international zooplankton quality assurance scheme. 

What are plankton, what is taxonomy and why should we care? An introduction to the flora and fauna of planktonic life in our oceans.

During this talk, we’ll take a look at the hidden beauty of the microscopic world and the huge variety of life found within the plankton, and talk taxonomy - tiring and tedious, or a powerful tool to catalogue and capture biodiversity.