SeaFlow: Continuous observations of the structure and dynamics of microbial populations in the oceans
Current knowledge of microbial community structure and distribution in the ocean is largely due to the use of flow cytometry, in which microbial cells are carried in a flow of fluid through a focused laser beam. The resulting scattered light and fluorescence reveal details of relative cell size and intrinsic fluorescence emission of individual cells. Collected continuously at hundreds or thousands of times per second, these single cell measurements can be aggregated into cytometric populations. These populations respond dynamically to changing environmental conditions when analyzed across both time and space. I will present discuss some of the observations made with SeaFlow, a continuous shipboard flow cytometer developed at the University of Washington that has collected the equivalent of 200,000 traditional flow cytometry samples over the last 4 years, spanning 75,000 km across the Pacific Ocean. I will also discuss PipeCyte, a prototype embedded cytometer that is being developed for underwater deployment.
Jarred Swalwell is a Research Scientist in The School of Oceanography, University of Washington. He earned a B.S. degree in physics from the University of Washington (Seattle, WA) and an M.S. degree in mechanical engineering/acoustics from the University of Texas at Austin (Austin, TX). In 2006 he developed a patented optical technology to simplify the operation of flow cytometers and this work has evolved into the development of the SeaFlow flow cytometer. This instrument is used to continuously characterize phytoplankton communities in ocean surface water. Seaflow has performed measurements on roughly 75,000 km of ocean transects.