RETURN OF THE PLANKTON


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DVD Synopsis and Outline
These study materials are copyrighted by Still Hope Productions, Inc. Permission is granted to duplicate the text of these study materials, or portions thereof, for educational, non-commercial, classroom use.  All other rights reserved.


Synopsis
 
Return of the Plankton, a 27- minute video, exposes viewers to the wealth of life in the Puget Sound ecosystems.  Two scuba divers lead the viewer through the seasons underwater and show plankton as the basis of the Puget Sound food web.  Supplementary materials provide study aids.
 
The DVD menu allows the viewer to choose one season at a time for viewing. Each season runs approximately 7 minutes.
 
In spring increased sunlight and the nutrients, accumulated over winter, make it possible for phytoplankton to multiply rapidly, doubling in numbers every few hours and clouding the water.
 
In summer the water clears because the supply of nutrients in the water diminishes with succeeding generations of phytoplankton. Animal larvae have consumed many of the diatoms and are making a good start at consuming each other, passing the energy of the sun along the food web. Some of the plankton, such as barnacles, drift temporarily then settle to the bottom and take on a new life.

In fall tattered kelp, bacteria and plankton fall to the bottom providing food for detritus eating bottom dwellers and the larger animals that live on them. Many creatures are searching the bottom for a meal, like sand dollars that eat the algae and detritus from the surface of the bottom. Moon snails leave a trail in their search for clams. Sea slugs devour a plankton-eater, the sea pen. Moon snails, crabs, sea stars, sand dollars, clams, oysters, barnacles, shrimp and seaweeds all spend part of their lives as plankton.
 
In winter, many creatures are spawning and guarding their eggs until spring when the new generation hatches in time to take advantage of the plankton bloom. However, some of the most numerous plankton are present in the water all year round. Copepods never graduate from a planktonic existence. They are, along with diatoms, the great treasure of the sound, two of the major supports of the Puget Sound food web.
 
Over 150 photographs from the video identify plants and animals by common and scientific names with a click of the menu button. These jpeg files can be copied for classroom use.
A printable outline of the video (below) provides a quick review of the seasons.  A printable summary of the marine food web, a sample quiz,  and a bibliography are  also on the DVD.
ary text

RETURN OF THE PLANKTON, Detailed Outline

Two scuba divers lead through the seasons, from spring when the plankton blooms, through summer, fall and winter. Microscopic views show basic elements of the food web, diatoms and zooplankton that feed on them, filter feeders, crustaceans, fish, a seal and birds. Visuals and narrative reveal the importance of Puget Sound as a nursery for marine life.
 

Summary by Season

Part One, Spring, plankton and plankton feeders

Introduces plankton and plankton feeders. Opens with a descent under the Agate Passage Bridge. Two divers swim through a blizzard of plankton carried by the current. The camera shows a variety of plankton feeding animals such as anemones, tubeworms and barnacles. A jellyfish sweeps the water with tentacles. Sea pens filter the water through a colony.

Cast of characters: microscopic diatoms, zooplankton, filter feeding white anemone, tubeworms, barnacles, hydroids on a live crab, burrowing sea cucumber, jelly fish, sea pen, piddock clam, salmon.

Part Two, Summer, connections in the food web

Opens as a blue heron catches a gunnel. The camera descends on a pier at Point White Dock, encrusted with barnacles, then, follows a green gunnel that has avoided the beak of the heron.

  In summer visibility improves as the plankton population thins out. Diatoms are multiplying more slowly because the abundance of nutrients was reduced by earlier generations in the spring. Animal larvae have consumed many of the diatoms and are making a good start at consuming each other. Some of the plankton drift temporarily then settle to the bottom and take on a new life such as barnacles, shrimp, crabs and sea stars. Small forage fish feed on plankton.  Small crustaceans called caprellids eat plankton from the water as they cling to a clump of Sargasso weed.

Sand dollars are spawning and adding to the flow of plankton. An eelgrass meadow provides a substrate for encrusting life and refuge for small creatures. Crabs and sea stars compete for a salmon carcass. As a climax to summer, a crab seeks refuge under a large boulder only to find the space already occupied by a waiting octopus.

Cast of characters: blue heron, gunnel, tube snout and other forage fish feeding, shrimp, caprellids on Sargasso weed, sea lettuce, eelgrass, sea stars and crab feasting, sand dollars, octopus.


Part Three, Fall, detritus and bottom feeders

Fall season opens with a view of Wing Point and the Seattle skyline beyond. The divers are exploring the kelp beds off Wing Point. The camera descends over a variety of kelp growing on the chain of a buoy. A harbor seal appears in the kelp forest and comes to look the divers over. A dogfish swims by, looking for fish. Camera shows series of possible prey.

The seaweed that was fresh as lettuce in spring has become tattered. It contributes to the rain of detritus, bacteria, etc., falling to the bottom. On the bottom dwell the detritus eaters. Shrimp, the housekeepers of the sea, eat just about anything. Sea cucumbers process the detritus as food, the yoghurt of the sea.  Perch also search the bottom for food.  Sand dollars eat algae and detritus from the surface of the grains of sand on the bottom.  Sand dollars, a hermit crab and a moon snail all leave trails on the bottom.  A moon snail searches for clams. Sea slugs devour bryozoans, sponges, algae, and a sea pen. Moon snails, crabs, sea stars, sand dollars, clams, oysters, barnacles, shrimp and seaweeds all spend part of their lives as plankton.

Other bottom dwellers like flounder and skate lie in wait for prey. Fish come to eat bottom dwellers. Others, like sea mammals, shark and other larger predators come to eat the fish.

Cast of characters: Bull kelp, harbor seal, dog fish shark, sturgeon poacher with decorator crab, school of perch, painted greenling, shrimp, giant sea cucumber, shiner surfperch, striped seaperch, pile perch, sand dollars, flounder, skate, sand star, hermit crab, moon snail, clam shell with hole drilled through, sea lemon, sea slugs eating sea pen, rat fish foraging in the bottom.

Part Four, Winter, accumulation of nutrients/ fish guard eggs

Fish spawn and guard eggs, which will hatch in time to take advantage of the plankton bloom in spring.

Late in the morning the sun is just rising over Seattle as the divers enter Puget Sound from Rockaway Beach. There will be fewer phytoplankton because of the summer feasting and because the angle of the sun provides less sunlight. The filter feeders will be sustained over winter however, because some of the most numerous plankton are present in the water all year round. Copepods never graduate from a planktonic existence. They, along with the diatoms, are part of the great treasure of the sound, two of the major supports of the food web.

Over the winter nutrients accumulate and are stirred by tides into suspension. Adult fish are building nests, depositing eggs. The eggs will hatch in time to take advantage of the spring plankton bloom. As daylight lengthens in spring, microscopic plants and animals multiply. Their abundance nourishes the development of animals that depend on them for food.

Cast of characters: copper rockfish, wolf eel, wolf eel eggs, swimming scallop, quillback rockfish, a variety of sculpins with camouflage, some sculpins guarding eggs, a heart crab, squid eggs, ling cod, ling cod eggs with shrimp and sea star, ling cod and other fry, plankton and sea spider.

Revised 1 June 2005
Copyright 2004 Still Hope Productions, Inc.