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Biocomplexity: Bio-feedback Basis of Self Organization in Planktonic Ecosystems Using Phaeocystis as a Model Complex Adaptive System

PIs: Peter Verity, Marc Frischer (Skidaway Inst. of Oceanography, Savannah, GA), Mark Hay (Georgia Inst. of Technology, Atlanta, GA), and Bernard Patten (Univ. of Georgia, Athens, GA)

Support: National Science Foundation

Timeframe: December 2000 - December 2005

Project Overview:
This research concerns the nature of complex adaptive systems. Phaeocystis is the model for these studies because of the organism's the self-organizational tendencies and its key role in various marine processes.

Phaeocystis is one of a very few recognized key organisms or "trophic engineers" among the plankton, which represent the base of the food web in virtually all aquatic waters. Among its various complex behaviors, Phaeocystis can change its morphology during various life cycle stages, thereby changing the entire food web around it. Phaeocystis is also important globally in that it produces chemcials that become greenhouse gases, which are associated with global warming. It is also very significant in the fluxes of chemical elements in the oceans and in supporting fisheries. Yet the mechanisms behind these processes are poorly understood. Our knowledge of distribution patterns of aquatic organisms is fairly sound, but we still do not know why certain species occur where and when they do. Therefore, we can predict little, and the goal of this new project is to attempt to improve on this.

Another important aspect of the project is to link the findings of this research to education in Georgia through the use of classroom instruction in biocomplexity via video conferencing, pre-college outreach programs, student internships, colloquia with distinguished lecturers, and international student exchanges.



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This page was updated October 13, 2006