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

Thanks to all who joined our event to celebrate 90 years of surveys crisscrossing our globe!

Scroll down to catch-up on the talks, see the schedule and find out more about our speakers

 

Confirmed Speakers

Prof. John Spicer, University of Plymouth

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.

When ‘The Wanderer’ met ‘Hardy’s baby’

(in the place of an abstract a riddle is offered – with apologies to Cynewulf who never wrote them anyway).

I am small, but a mighty global engine,
I wander far, but can’t move fast,
Embroiled in HB-twisted mesh I expired, but now live, forever in the minds of sages,
Breath is my heritage, but you take mine away, you who shot the Albatross.
What am I?


Prof Philip (Chris) Reid, CPR Survey, MBA

Prof Philip (Chris) Reid, CPR Survey, MBA

Joining the Continuous Plankton Recorder (CPR) survey in 1973 Chris has remained associated ever since. He became Director of SAHFOS who ran the Survey from 1994-2006 after a secondment to London from 1989 as North Sea Scientific Coordinator affiliating to the University of Plymouth as Professor of Oceanography in 2007. Chris's research has focused on marine plankton ecology/ long-term change/ regime shifts/ dormancy/ encystment in the North Sea, North Atlantic and globally with early links to climate change. With work to draw attention to the key role that the ocean plays in climate change being his most recent focus.

90 years of the Continuous Plankton Recorder (CPR) Survey: a potted history. Survival and success against all the odds and where to now?

The CPR was the brainchild of Alister Hardy and evolved from the large Type 1 CPR used in the Discovery Investigations to a series of smaller Type2 versions designed for use from Merchant ships. Today we are celebrating the first official deployment of a Type 2 CPR on the SS Albatross between Hull and Bremerhaven on 31 September 1931 to start the CPR survey. Ninety years, more than 7 million nautical miles towed and more than 276,000 samples analysed later we have a lot to celebrate. It is all down to a dedicated team of plankton analysts, laboratory technicians, logisticians, office backup and assistance from transport and ships, their crews and port companies. I will summarise the first 70 years of the survey, that includes sampling and analysis methods, data processing/computerisation and technology as outlined in Reid  et al 2003. Progress in Oceanography. A greater focus will be placed on the last twenty years and its associated traumas including Covid and especially climate change. I will note prime movers of a growth in publications, applications to policy development, moves towards a collaborative global survey and technology development. Finally, I will make some recommendations for the future and look forward to the 100th Anniversary.


Dr. (ret.) John Alistair Lindley

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.


Marianne Wootton, CPR Survey., The Marine Biological Association

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.


Prof. Willie Wilson, Marine Biological Association

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.


Prof. Anthony J. Richardson, University of Queensland and CSIRO

Prof. Anthony J. Richardson, University of Queensland and CSIRO

Professor Anthony J. Richardson is a mathematical ecologist at the University of Queensland and CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere in Australia. He graduated from UQ in 1991, majoring in Maths and Ecology, and graduated with 1st Class Honours in 1992. He obtained his PhD in Marine Ecology from the University of Cape Town in 1998, where he developed statistical models to understand plankton dynamics and anchovy recruitment. He has previously held positions at the University of Cape Town (South Africa), the University of the Western Cape (South Africa), and the Sir Alister Hardy Foundation of Ocean Science (UK). His research interests include plankton dynamics, climate change ecology, marine conservation and spatial planning, and ecosystem modelling. Anthony is particularly focused on elucidating the role of plankton in marine ecosystems. He is the author of >200 peer-reviewed publications, and has been cited 25,000 times. At CSIRO, Anthony leads the Australian Continuous Plankton Recorder Survey, working with a team of skilled and dedicated plankton enthusiasts to investigate the plankton communities of the Pacific, Indian and Southern Oceans around Australia.

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. Charles H. Greene, Ocean Visions

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. Jonathan A. D. Fisher., Centre for Fisheries Ecosystems Research, Fisheries and Marine Institute of Memorial University of Newfoundland

Dr. Jonathan A. D. Fisher., Centre for Fisheries Ecosystems Research, Fisheries and Marine Institute of Memorial University of Newfoundland

Jonathan is the Research Chair in Marine Fisheries Ecosystems Dynamics within the Centre for Fisheries Ecosystems Research at the Fisheries and Marine Institute of Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada. His primary research goals are to understand and quantify how changing environmental conditions, trophic interactions and fisheries alter the dynamics of marine populations, communities, and ecosystems with a focus on the Newfoundland and Labrador and Canadian Arctic regions. These goals are being achieved through the application of multiple methods including coupling CPR to advanced fisheries acoustics techniques and expanding the northern extent of CPR collections in Canadian waters.

From ships of opportunity to research icebreaker programs: expanding the northern reach of CPR in an increasingly ice-free Canadian Arctic.  

The vast extent of changing Arctic marine ecosystems requires initiatives to quantify spatiotemporal variation in plankton communities, fish assemblages, and plastic pollution on large spatial scales. The CPR's simultaneous collection of plankton and plastics--together with large-scale net-based and acoustic sampling programs targeting fishes in the Canadian Arctic--is facilitating new research questions related to the co-occurrence of biological and pollution 'hotspots' and important spatial variation in both. Using oceanographic, fisheries acoustic and CPR data collected aboard icebreakers sampling an aggregate >5000 nautical miles in 2016, 2017, and 2019 reveals the occurrence and abundance of marine pelagic plastic pollution compared that to co-occurring phytoplankton and zooplankton species, with emerging coupled acoustic estimates of fish biomass. This program's extension from Arctic proof-of concept opportunity to successful deployments aboard the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Amundsen within the 2019 (and ongoing 2021-) Canadian ArcticNet program illustrate the ability to scale up to a potential pan-Arctic CPR sampling program involving both ships of opportunity and dedicated research vessels during increasingly ice-free Arctic summers.


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

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.


Prof. Richard Thompson OBE FRS, University of Plymouth

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.


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

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.


Dr. Tom Doyle, University College Cork

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. Sarah Burthe., UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology

Dr. Sarah Burthe., UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology

Sarah Burthe is an ecologist at the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Edinburgh. She studies how individuals, populations and ecosystems respond to environmental change. Sarah is part of the core team responsible for UKCEH's long-term study of seabird populations on the Isle of May, providing vital evidence underpinning sustainable use of coastal waters. She tries to understand how parasitism and extreme weather impacts individual behaviour, fitness and migration in partially-migratory European shags. She has also looked at how climate change is altering the seasonal timing and stability of the marine ecosystem in the North Sea, from plankton to top predators. Recently she is investigating how human-induced landscape change is driving emergence of zoonotic tick-borne pathogens in India.

Phenological change and trophic mismatch across multiple levels of a North Sea pelagic food web.

Climate change is affecting the abundance, distribution and phenology (seasonal timing) of species in the North Sea. The UK has internationally important populations of seabirds, which are sensitive to climate-driven changes in the availability of their fish prey during breeding. Unequal shifts in phenology between trophic levels can lead to a mismatch between predators and prey, leading to changes in seabird diet, energetics and reproduction. However, data on mid-trophic level fish such as sandeel, the predominant prey for the majority of seabirds in this region for the last 40 years, are generally poor. Long-term data from the Continuous Plankton Recorder (CPR) surveys enabled us to compare phenological trends across four trophic levels in the North Sea. We quantified the timing of peak primary production (diatom abundance) and peak primary consumption (copepod biomass) as well as using the CPR data and prey data from seabirds to derive annual estimates of sandeel phenology. There was prevalent trophic mismatch within the North Sea pelagic food web. Although the timing of peak energy demand in seabirds and that of larger sandeel availability had both got later over the 24-year study period, the pace of change in seabirds was not sufficient to match that of sandeels, resulting in in declines in the prey energy value. However, we found no relationship with reproductive success.


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

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!


David Johns., CPR Survey, Marine Biological Association

David Johns., CPR Survey, Marine Biological Association

David is Head of the Continuous Plankton Recorder Survey and specialises (>20 years) in plankton macroecology, long-term dataset analysis and para-taxonomy. He has published research papers (>50) on plankton and hydro-climatic interactions, invasive species and plankton – higher trophic level interactions, and has extensive experience in producing scientific reports for Governmental bodies, NGO’s and commercial companies. Recently, he was part of an OSPAR project that worked towards the operationalisation of ecological indicators for European marine policy.


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

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.


Dr. Rowena Stern., CPR Survey., The Marine Biological Association

Dr. Rowena Stern., CPR Survey., The Marine Biological Association

Dr Rowena Stern is a research scientist in molecular ecology where she applies molecular methods to explore changes in planktonic microbial eukaryotes (or protist) dynamics and their evolution. Her focus is on changing dynamics of harmful or cryptic phytoplankton organisms and parasites. Rowena uses specialised genetic methods to extract DNA from historic CPR samples collected to understand species diversity and distribution in the past decades and how they have changed. This approach provides a unique opportunity to review past diversity patterns with current information on microbial diversity and functioning.

Expanding the possibilities of the CPR survey through molecular applications

First routinely deployed in 1931 the Continuous Plankton Recorder (CPR) technology has established the most extensive, marine biological sampling programme in the world. With more than 90 years of sampling, over a total of 8 million nautical miles covered and 500 000 curated samples, the CPR survey provides a gold mine of information available to marine researchers. Such information is likely to exponentially increase thanks to new cutting-edge molecular technologies that are beginning to be applied on CPR samples. Rowena will be presenting exciting new developments of genomic applications to CPR samples and how they can transform marine health monitoring.


Dr Boris Espinasse., University of Tromso, Norway

Dr Boris Espinasse., University of Tromso, Norway

Boris a biological oceanographer focusing on biophysical interactions, zooplankton ecology and trophic interactions in marine ecosystems. He uses several types of approaches to characterize zooplankton community dynamics, such as spatial multivariate analysis, community size structure, stable isotopes and particle tracking modelling. Combining these approaches provide meaningful information to describe how plankton dynamic and productivity will affect top predator fitness and migration behaviour.

Developing large scale zooplankton isoscapes using observational data

While high seas are the feeding grounds of many marine species, the costs and the logistical difficulties of working far from the coast have historically limited research in this area, hampering our understanding of this ecosystem. The CPR program has collected samples from the coast to the open ocean in the North Atlantic Ocean and Northeast Pacific over several decades. We use these samples as a basis to build models describing the spatial distribution of the carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen (δ15N) stable isotope signatures of large zooplankton species. We use recently developed spatial statistics approach, where high resolution observational data (e.g., satellite data) are applied as predictors of SI variability, allowing to produce isoscapes with a full coverage of the study area. Describing isotopic baseline variation inform three key measures of marine ecosystem: productivity, food web structure and animal migration pathways. This type of approach will help to better understand the conditions experienced by foraging fish, seabirds and marine mammals, and detail the link between large-scale climate change and population dynamics.


Dr Julie Robidart, National Oceanography Centre

Dr Julie Robidart, National Oceanography Centre

Julie Robidart is the Head of Ocean Technology & Engineering at the National Oceanography Centre. She is a marine ecologist who develops assays, samplers and sensors to understand the interplay between organisms and changing oceans. She is involved in several international efforts to enable globally coordinated ocean observations of marine life.

Opportunities and innovation in marine biological surveillance for global-scale observations

The CPR survey has already achieved a major vision in oceanography: large-scale, sustained biological observations. In this talk I'll briefly review innovations in the CPR programme and link these to new tools, initiatives and challenges for global-scale surveillance, related to the Ocean Decade and the G7 Future of the Seas and Oceans activities.