Using Single-Cell Fluorescence to Track Phytoplankton Communities in the Ocean

Sep 05, 2012
By Spectroscopy Editors

An interview with Micky Myrick and Tammi Richardson of the University of South Carolina, in Columbia, South Carolina

The taxonomic composition of phytoplankton communities in the world’s oceans determines how carbon and other materials are cycled through these vast ecosystems. Most instruments used to characterize phytoplankton, however, require large amounts of electrical power, which limits their ability to be used at sea. Micky Myrick, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry, and Tammi Richardson, an associate professor of biology and marine science, both at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, South Carolina, have recently developed an instrument for the classification of phytoplankton taxa that has low power requirements and thus can be used at sea. They hope to one day miniaturize this technology so that it can be deployed in situ, on a mooring or on an autonomous underwater vehicle.

Their method involves capturing spectra through single-cell fluorescence excitation spectroscopy and analyzing the data using imaging multivariate optical computing (IMOC). A key component of their approach is multivariate optical elements (MOEs), which are specially designed interference filters. The transmission spectra of each filter code for individual phytoplankton species or for a group of similarly-pigmented species within a taxon. The MOEs are inserted into a chopper wheel and target cells are excited by light shone through the spinning MOEs. The fluorescence response of the target cells produces a streak in a captured image. The images are then analyzed using an all-optical method for pattern recognition that involves multivariate statistics.

For more information:

L.S. Hill, T.L. Richardson, L.T.M. Profeta, T.J. Shaw, C.J. Hintz, B.S. Twining, E. Lawrenz, and M.L. Myrick, “Construction, figures of merit, and testing of a single-cell fluorescence excitation spectroscopy system.” Rev. Sci. Instrum. 81(1), 013103 (2010).

L.S. Bruckman, T.L. Richardson, J.A. Swanstrom, K.A. Donaldson, M. Allora Jr., T.J. Shaw, and M.L. Myrick, “Linear discriminant analysis of single-cell fluorescence excitation spectra of five phytoplankton species.” Appl. Spectrosc. 66(1): 60–65 (2012).

Professor Myrick’s page at the University of South Carolina:

Professor Richardson’s page at the University of South Carolina:

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