Plankton Sampling

Plankton Sampling

Sampling Kits
The Goes Foundation will provide plankton sampling kits for yachts that are crossing oceans, we are particularly interested in yachts that are tranversing the high and low latitudes.
The sample collection kits comprise of the following items.
1 x plankton net
20 x 50ml sample vials (certified for metal analysis)
20 x disposable wooden spatulas

Plankton samples should be taken approximately 4 hours after sunset at night, the GPS position, date and time are recorded and written on the sample container label. If the vessel is equipment with a digital microscope, then a photographic record of the sample at 50 x magnification would also be useful. A series of up to 10 to 20 samples should be taken (if possible) on one ocean passage.
The samples are returned to GOES in Edinburgh, Scotland for metal analysis.
The metal analysis will relate to the following;
TOC total organic carbon
silica, total silica
tin, mercury, lead, copper, iron
nickle, zinc, cadmium, arsenic, chromium, uranium
Heavy metals can be up to 1000 times more toxic to plankton and larval stages of fish and invertebrates than they are to the adult stages.
GOES will analysis the samples for heavy metals, the resuts may then be published on a map, showing the location of the sample. The name of the yacht (with permission of the skipper) will also be displayed.  We need to build up a record of at least 10,000 analysis over the next few years in order to have sufficient data to help relate the impact of priority chemicals on oceanic primary productivity.
How to collect and prepare the plankton sample

Sample collection is fairly simple, just trawl the net behind the yacht for a period of about 60 minutes, or for as long as it takes to collect at least 10ml of plankton. The yacht will need to be trravelling at under 2 knots during the trawl.  Once the sample has been taken, remove the net from the water, allow the net to drain, and for the sample of the plankton to collect in the end cap.  Once the net has drained, carefully decant the concents to the sample vial. Avoid touching the sample as this could transfer contamination from your hands. The wooden spatula provided with the kit may be used to help transfer the contents to the sample vial.  Try to minimise the amount of water collected.  Seal the tube firmly,  the sample may now be stored for many weeks, however best to keep out of direct sunlight and if possible store in a cool dark place such as a fridge.  The samples will not degrade becuase we are measuring metals, however way may conduct additional tests such as PCBs and PBDE on good samples.

Label the sample with the following information

  • yacht name
  • gps position
  • date
  • time
  • length of plankton trawl (minutes)
  • number of hours after sunset
  • Type of anti-fouling paint used if known, eg is it copper based, TBT or other,  please state.
  • If possible email a photograph of the sample, and include the date and time  in ordser for it to be matched to the sample.
Transition Metals

The concentration of transition metals and heavy metals are much higher in the oceans that can be explained by the emissions from hydro-thermal vents, or air blown innoculation. Plastic also breaks down to nano-paticles and will sequester heavy metals as other priority chemicals.  Below 20nm in size the particles can pass through cell walls, copepods and zooplankton then eat the algae and the toxins end up in the zooplankton. Very few research vessels have measured the pollutants,  this is what makes it so important for plankton sampling and citizen science that is possible onboard yachts.

The sample containers are unfortunately in plastic, we tried to obtain glass vials with cork top,  but they could not be certified meal free.

This sample vials comply with the following methods metal analysis.


EPA 200.2 EPA 200.5 EPA 200.7
EPA 200.8 EPA 200.9 EPA 245.1
EPA 245.7 SM 3030 SM 3112
SM 3120 SM 3125 ISO 15202-2:2012
ISO 15587-1:2002 ISO 15587-2:2002 EPA 3050B
EPA 7470

EPA 7471


Analysis is by ICP Atomic Emission Spectroscope,  paper covering analytical principles . click here