SITE VISIT: Drop of Life

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Science  19 Feb 1999:
Vol. 283, Issue 5405, pp. 1079
DOI: 10.1126/science.283.5405.1079d

More than 100,000 species of tiny life-forms cavort in the world's rivers, lakes, and oceans, forming a mostly unseen web of life at the base of the aquatic food chain. The Plankton Net, run by zoology grad student Warren Currie at Ontario's University of Guelph, conveys some of the fascination researchers feel toward this underwater microworld.

Currie says he started the site 5 years ago as a way to stay in touch with other plankton researchers. Legions of them now tap the site's lists of experts and marine institutes around the world, as well as a catalog of job openings in marine biology, oceanography, and environmental science. Other links reach out to amateur plankton buffs: scuba sites, plankton and reef image galleries, and online advice about becoming a marine biologist. There are Web links on specific organisms, like rotifers, diatoms, and copepods. And in a multimedia section, visitors can become virtual limnologists, examining the species drifting and swimming in water samples from the Great Lakes.

By summer, Currie says, the site will be integrated with an online atlas being developed at Guelph that describes all the major players in the Great Lakes ecosystems, from plankton to loons and beavers.

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