Zooplankton Ecology

One of the major challenges when modeling any system is the magnitude of the uncertainties present in the system. In oceanography, the uncertainties in biogeochemical models regarding the metazoan contribution are significantly large. Dr. Leocadio Blanco-Bercial’s research is focused on quantitatively investigating how diversity (in its many facets) is responsible for a portion of those uncertainties, and identifying how the nature of the open ocean environment shapes diversity from the surface to the deep ocean. He uses a suite of approaches to address these questions, both directly and via collaboration with other researchers. The goals of his research are to understand how diversity originates and is maintained in the open ocean, and to integrate metazoan diversity measurements into the primary ocean biogeochemical models.

Using imaging and molecular metabarcoding tools, his current projects include studying different facets of the hyper-diverse eukaryotic planktonic community at the Bermuda Atlantic Time-series Study (BATS) site, as well as the vertical characterization of the planktonic community in the epi- and the mesopelagic (from surface to 1000m depth) in the North Pacific and North Atlantic Oceans. In conjunction with the BIOS-SCOPE project, this research extends into the interactions of the metazoans with the prokaryotic and protist communities in the Sargasso Sea.

Together with BIOS research specialist Tim Noyes, he has developed an eDNA protocol to track the reef fish community in Bermuda. Blanco-Bercial also works in the terrestrial environment, searching caves for ancient crustacean lineages unique to the island of Bermuda.

Blanco-Bercial is also actively engaged in teaching at BIOS (marine plankton ecology and marine invertebrate zoology) and in broader impact activities.

In the News

BIOS-SCOPE group photo

BIOS-SCOPE Scientists Reflect on the Project’s Success – and Look Ahead to its Future


Animals in Ocean’s Twilight Zone Thrive on Upcycled Nutrients

A collaboration between Arizona State University’s “Ask A Biologist” website and researchers and educators at BIOS is helping students understand the fundamental concept of taxonomy, or grouping and classifying organisms based on their physical characteristics. Claire Fox (right), BIOS science education officer, designed an online, interactive game that leads players through the use of a dichotomous key, a tool that helps scientists identify unknown organisms—in this case, species of fish or zooplankton found in Bermuda. The game, called “Keys to the Ocean,” is tied into the “Identification Keys” lesson that is offered through BIOS’s Curriculum Enrichment Program as a 2.5-hour workshop, which includes the opportunity for students to conduct a plankton tow aboard a research vessel and view live plankton under microscopes.

Students Identify Organisms With ‘Keys to the Ocean’

BIOS's Ocean Academy collaborated with community partners to support two ocean-focused initiatives designed to educate Bermuda’s young people about ocean science and engage them in conversations about climate change and local environmental policy and decision-making processes.

BIOS Supports Bermuda’s Next Generation of Environmental Stewards


ASU Announces New School of Ocean Futures

A new simulation video game developed in collaboration with BIOS researchers is set to debut on the gaming platform Steam in late November 2022. Created by sound designer José González, subROV: Underwater Discoveries puts players behind the controls of a deep-ocean remotely operated vehicle (ROV). Drawing inspiration from his love of ocean exploration, as well as real-world scientific investigations and ROV expeditions, González produced a series of simulated dives for players to pilot their ROV through.

Ocean Exploration Through Video Game Simulation: “subROV”

Samples from waters off Bermuda have revealed an exciting discovery for a team of researchers led by Josué G. Millán, PhD candidate at Indiana State University: 40 new species of undescribed coccolithophores, a type of phytoplankton. BIOS zooplankton ecologist Leocadio Blanco-Bercial, who was also involved with the project, says the Sargasso Sea is “one of the world’s hotspots for plankton biodiversity.” Shown here is a previously identified species from Bermuda, as the new species are currently being described by taxonomists in preparation for publication in a scientific journal. Ceratolithus cristatus, photographed at 12,900x magnification, collected from a depth of 65 feet (20 meters).

A Big Commotion about Bermuda’s Coccolithophores

From June 12 to 18, educators from 10 universities and colleges across the U.S. took part in a workshop designed to help build critical thinking and data analysis skills in students through the use of real-world atmospheric and oceanographic data sets. Funded by a National Science Foundation grant, the “High Dive into Data” workshop was an opportunity to share a new educational resource: the BIOS DataBytes website. DataBytes was launched in late 2020 in partnership with the Biological and Chemical Oceanographic and Data Management Office (BCO-DMO), the ocean science data repository of NSF, and Your Ocean Consulting, LLC. The site offers curated sets of downloadable data files, as well as introductions to the thematic units and supporting multimedia resources, such as interactive maps, photographs, and videos.

Delivering on the Demand for Data

Coots spends hours on small boats offshore Bermuda collecting samples with a net from the surface down to about 500 feet (150 meters) depth, where surface light begins to fade, then isolating and imaging radiolarians from samples using a glass pipette and microscope. Photo by Hannah Gossner

A Sign of Summer: Students on Campus