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Data entry table

Yacht Copepod: home to the off-shore GOES Team

(a little ocean-going lab is all that’s needed).

The number one question the GOES team gets asked, is how much room is needed to undertake the science?  To the right is a picture of the microscope used on Yacht Copepod, which tucks in and stays permanently on the chart table.          

 Making every sample count

When you contact the GOES team and let us know you want to get involved, we will get back in touch with you to take you through the information below in more detail.  We have summarised it so that you can get a fairly clear idea of what is involved.     Every sample is so important, and we want to make sure that everyone knows how to take and record these precious samples so we will take you through the process in detail, but below is a summary of what you need to know:

A summary of the key things to know about how we plan to do the sampling and the all-important recording:

 Here’s how it should work (but you know how it is at sea!): 



  1. Record your position. The GOES IT team will match this sample location with a satellite image your GPS position as close to the time you collected the sample. This will allow us to calibrate with satellite data for phytoplankton during daylight hours. (Zooplankton migrate at night so satellite imagery isn’t of value).
  2. 2. If possible, and weather dependent, 2 samples to be taken a day at 12 noon and midnight in your time zone.
  3. The samples will be 500ml or half litre of seawater

4.This will be filtered through one of the GOES 0.4um Jesus filters, with the plankton, particles and microplastics being caught on a paper disc. 

  1. The paper disc makes the sample easy to handle and pop under the microscope.
  2. We don’t expect the numbers to be huge (10 – 30 particles), so it shouldn’t take too long to count everything on the paper.

The microscope recommend will allow you to see ‘particles’ down to 20 um, that is 0.02mm.

  1. Then it’s the exciting bit: take a record of the following 4 groups of particles would be ideal.

Now for the really cool stuff – it is time to get counting:-

  1. The tiny planktonic animals (zooplankton) numbers should be counted in 3 size bands, 20 to 200um, 200 to 2000um and greater than 2000um.
  2. The plants (phytoplankton) you are most likely to see are the very beautiful Diatoms and measure in size from around 20 to 2000 um.
  3. Microplastic fibres are usually easy to identify and often blue. The plastic particles can be more difficult and often appear in different shades of grey. 
  4. Numbers of unidentified particles.

On arrival in a port, harbour or marina

When you arrive into port and can access the internet, the numbers can be popped into the GOES web site or send us your notes of the numbers and we can do it. 

What happens to the data?

·       The numbers you have collected (probably on paper) should be up-loaded to the internet when you have an internet connection.   

·       An application is being developed for PC , MAC, android and Apple phones to allow you to enter the information directly, and then when you have a Wi-Fi link, it can be uploaded automatically to the GOES database.

·       GOES operates on a Microsoft Azure system which we will use to input, present and analyse the data in real time.  The results will be posted on the CDCP section of  The position of every yacht involved in the project will be available for viewing using AIS, and sample points will also appear.

·       Clicking on a sample point will show the details of the sample, as well as the yacht that collected the sample.

·       With your explicit agreement, we will only hold the contact email address – the Yacht name and MMSI number will be uploaded from AIS system which is in the public domain and this will be displayed - currently the GOES team are using Vessel Finder.


Plankton sampling protocol

Prepare the plankton filter to receive a sample by making sure the equipment is clean, and insert a new 0.45um pore size, 50mm diameter filter paper.

Take approximately a >0.5 litre sample of water in a small clean bucket and transfer to the GOES plankton filter. Fill the filter to over-flowing and then stop, this will insure a 0.5 litre sample of water has been transferred. The filter is now suspended on it’s cord in an up-right position and left for 30 to 60 minutes, the filter should allow to swing like a pendulum in order for it to stay upright with the minimum of motion from the boat. Allow the water to completely drain through the 0.45 um filter paper.

The filter paper is removed for the filter once it has semi dried and put under a simple usb microscope.  Because there is no water sloshing around it is now fairly easy to count the number of plastic micro-fibres, particles, zooplankton and phytoplankton in the whole sample, every particle observed is counted.

The filter paper is rated at 0.45um, and a cover plate restricts the passage of water through the filter paper to 5 x 3mm diameter holes.  The full 0.5 x litre sample of water is therefore filtered through these 5 holes.  If the concentration of particles in the water is too great, then one of more holes are used.  For example, if the particle could looks like it is going to be several hundred or over one thousand, then simply count the number of particles in one of the 5 x 3mm filter patches.  The numbers recorded are then multiplied by 10, to relate the numbers to a concentration in 1 litre.

The microscope should focus on one of the 5 x 3mm filter patches, zoom out until the 3mm fills the whole field of view. This means there is no need to move the filter paper or the microscope to count all the particles on one of the 3mm patches.  This also means that everyone in the project is using approximately the same level of magnification.  All five filter sections are counted on the one paper.  The number of particles x 2 is equal to the concentration of particles per litre of water.

Calibrating the microscope

It is important to set the magnification of the microscope correctly, the diameter of the filter disc to be inspected is 3mm.  Zoom in with the microscope until the 3mm diameter disc fills the view on your display.  You still need to be able to see the edge or circumference of the disc.  Use a 0.01 division microscope reticule to calibrate the scope. The 0,01 divisions are 10 um and given the low cost of the microscope, resolution is lost at this magnification so the sub divisions are difficult to see.  The total length of the scale shown in the photo is 1000 um, (1mm) the main divisions are 100um, the line is a human hair at about 50 um.  It is therefore very easy to see and count 50 um objects, and 20 um is about the lower cut-off limit for the equipment.

Sample time

Zooplankton migrate to the surface every night, this migration represents the greatest mass of animals moving on the planet. Each evening as the sun sets, an estimated five billion metric tons of sea life move from 400m below the surface of our oceans to feast on microscopic plants that grow in the sunlight near the surface. They ascend only in the darker hours to avoid predators that hunt by sight. Before dawn, these animals weighing as much as 17 million 747 airplanes, reverse course, sinking or swimming down to spend another day in darkness.[1]  When samples are taken during the day, we will pick up phytoplankton plants, and during the night it will also include the animals or zooplankton.  The zooplankton will be eating plastic.  The time the samples are taken is not too critical

12:00 to 14:00 hrs for daytime samples

24:00hrs to 02:00 for night-time samples

Zooplankton (animals)

There will be no requirement to identify different species of zooplankton, but it still something that you can do as an add-on to the study.  Identification sheets are provided for both zooplankton and phytoplankton. What we really want to know are the numbers of zooplankton and their size.   The zooplankton are split into three groups.

      macro  larger than 2,000

      meso   200 to 2,000 um

      micro   20 to 200 um

      smaller than 20 um

Most of the zooplankton animals will be 200um to 2000um so they should be quite easy to see, although many are translucent, so it may just be their eyes you see at first until you become accustomed to identifying them down a microscope


There will potentially be a large number of Diatoms in the 0.5 litre sample of water, maybe as many as 500.  It will be difficult to count such a large number in the sample.  There are 5 holes on the filter support plate to allow water to be filtered. 100ml of water will pass through each hole.  If there are a large number of diatoms, just count them in one of the filter holes, and then record the number of holes used for counting on the record sheet.

      macro  larger than 2,000

      meso   200 to 2,000 um

      micro   20 to 200 um

      smaller than 20 um


How to record the numbers

0.5 litres of water will be filtered, this means 0.1 litres of water will pass through each of the filter sections on the paper.  We need the data to represent particles of plastic, zooplankton or phytoplankton per litre of water. 

However, all that you need to do, is to record the number of holes counted and the number of particles counted.  For example.  If you only count 2 of the holes, then put 2 in column C in the table below. If you count 50 particles in the 2 holes, then enter 50 into the table.  We will then do the calculation to translate this into particles per litre.

[1] ‘The Largest Migration on Earth Is Vertical’, Good Nature Travel, 21 August 2018,



Data entry table.


The following table can be downloaded as part of a word doc at the following link,  click here

The table will also be turned into a APP for a PC, Apple and smart phone to make it easier to enter the results which are then automatically up-loaded when you have a wifi connection










No. of particles counted


Yacht name






Day/month/year,        --/--/--




Time, 24 hrs format






Day about 12:00 to 14:00hrs (enter 1)





Night about 24:00 to 02:00hrs (enter 2)









GPS position










Water temperature

Deg C









Unidentified particles

All sizes of un-identified visible particles









Plastic fibres

20 um to 200um





200um to 2000um














Plastic particles

20 to 200um





200um to 2000um















20um to 200um





200um to 2000um










Number of holes counted



Enter number of holes counted in column D







20um to 200um





200um to 2000um










Number of holes counted



Enter number of holes counted in column D






Water condition

Is there foam on surface

1 yes, 2 no


If you see bubbles or foam on the surface that last for more than 10 seconds, enter 1, if the answer in no, enter 2


Does the water look glassy, as if there is an oil slick

1 yes, 2 no


If you see what looks like an oil slick, where there are no ripples on the surface of the water, enter 1 if the answer in no, enter 2

Life on earth depends upon healthy Oceans, we have 10 years to stop toxic chemical pollution, or life on earth may become impossible

Dr. Howard Dryden, CSO

Goes Foundation

Roslin Innovation Centre
The University of Edinburgh
Easter Bush Campus
Midlothian EH25 9RG