NSF Rapid Plankton

Response of plankton assemblages & trophodynamics to a historic, hurricane-induced floodwater plume in a subtropical, pelagic environment

December 1, 2017 – November 30, 2018
Kelly Robinson, University of Louisiana at Lafayette (Lead PI)
Beth Stauffer, University of Louisiana at Lafayette
Simon Geist, Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi
Astrid Schnetzer, North Carolina State University

The NSF RAPID project is examining how plankton in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico respond to large floodwater plumes generated by extreme weather events like Hurricane Harvey at time scales relevant to its development and evolution (days to months). The goal is to understand how the timing, magnitude, and constituent loads of a massive pulse of freshwater to the Louisiana-Texas shelf are: (1) driving changes in phytoplankton (Stauffer, UL Lafayette & Schnezter, NC State), zooplankton (Robinson, UL Lafayette), and larval fish (Geist, TAMUCC) communities and distributions over monthly, seasonal, and annual time scales and, (2) what the consequences of those changes are to food web interactions within the plankton. The timing of Hurricane Harvey flood water disturbance coincides with the summer-fall spawning seasons for economically important Gulf of Mexico fisheries (e.g. red drum, sea trouts, snappers), raising additional questions of longer term effects of food web disruptions on recruitment.


This project will train two undergraduate students and four PhD-level graduate students across three institutions. Pre- and post-floodwater plume data and samples will be shared with the broader scientific community within one year of collection to facilitate their immediate use by scientists beyond the research team. The team will give coordinated public talks at established regional science communication series and through other existing regional outreach partnerships to extend the educational scope of the project. Finally, results from this research will be incorporated in course curriculum and shared through scientific presentations and publications in peer-reviewed journals.

Research cruise #1

October 2017 Cruise Photos 

Blog “Dispatches From The Field” (Stauffer Lab) & “Catching Zooplankton

Research cruise #2

January 2018 Cruise Photos

Blogs: “Back on the Boat!”  & “Can’t be tired picking fish

R2R DOI: doi:10.7284/907927

Research cruise #3

March 2018 Cruise Photos

Blog: “Chasing sleep & wee beasties”



Funded by a National Science Foundation Biological Oceanography Program grant (NSF #1760704)