The Importance of Plankton in Aquatic Ecosystems By Renate Bernstein

While much popular discussion of changes to aquatic ecosystems has focused on the fate of large animals (including whales, dolphins, and polar bears), the oceans’ smallest inhabitants are perhaps more important to the overall viability of their watery ecosystems.

These organisms, called plankton, form the bottom layers of aquatic food chains, providing nourishment to the larger and larger animals that feed the animals whose loss is visible and easily recognizable to those outside the scientific community.

In my work as a Research Assistant in the field of Marine Science, I have had the opportunity to analyze the roles played by both phytoplankton (which are part of the plant kingdom) and zooplankton (part of the animal family).

To promote general knowledge about the importance of plankton for overall oceanic health, I contributed to the development and production of an educational booklet about radiolarians, a type of microscopic phytoplankton.

About Renate Bernstein

After a brief career as a Registered Nurse, Renate Bernstein returned to school to prepare for her career in Marine Science. She attended the University of South Florida, earning a B.A. in Mathematics in 1980, an M.S. in Marine Science in 1985, and a Ph.D. in Marine Science in 2000. Renate Bernstein has participated in several research expeditions around the world.


About renatebernstein

Experienced biogeochemist and researcher Renate E. Bernstein has most recently worked on projects funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency. Based in St. Petersburg, Florida, Dr. Bernstein specializes in the development and testing of instrumentation for the assessment of oceanic carbon parameters; crucial to a better understanding of global climate change and its effect on the world’s ocean. Dr. Bernstein is also considered to be a world expert on the subject of acantharians; ubiquitous microscopic oceanic plankton that can dictate oceanic elemental concentrations and have been implicated in the formation of the heretofore enigmatic marine barite. Additionally, Dr. Bernstein has worked with microscopic plankton called foraminifera, used as a proxy in determining the viability of coral reef systems. Much of this research entailed month-long seagoing research expeditions around the world as well as laboratory work. 
A longtime affiliate of the University of South Florida's College of Marine Science, Renate E. Bernstein has completed investigations funded by the National Science Foundation into a variety of ocean phenomena, including the relationship between sediment trap collection efficiency and their hydrodynamics in the Sargasso Sea. These traps were deployed at various depths within the water column and were used to collect particulates at varying ocean depths. These particulates were then analyzed to glean an understanding of the types and amounts of microscopic material prevalent within the water column. Dr. Bernstein was also a member of a team of scientists studying the effect of Asian dust in the Northern Pacific Ocean. This dust, born of massive dust storms, travels great distances and has been implicated in promoting ocean productivity by providing necessary nutrients. 
 Renate Bernstein completed a B.A. degree in Mathematics and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Marine Science at the University of South Florida. A dedicated student, Renate E. Bernstein secured induction into the Phi Kappa Phi honor society, won a Knight Fellowship for academic achievement, and published her findings in a wide range of eminent peer-reviewed journals. Over the course of her career, she has submitted and published articles in scientific journals such as Environmental Science & Technology, Marine Chemistry, Deep-Sea Research, Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, Science and Nature. Additionally she has contributed chapters in two books; a two-volume book entitled South Atlantic Zooplankton and another entitled Marine Particles: Analysis and Characterization. Originally trained as a nurse, Renate E. Bernstein provided intensive care to hospital patients at Boston City Hospital for several years before entering the field of marine science. Dr. Bernstein earned her R.N. from the Boston City Hospital School of Nursing where she specialized in cardiac nursing.
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