Image: S. Zeman
Appendicularians and other pelagic tunicates consume pico- and nano-plankton by driving complex flow fields through a mucus mesh
Image: S. Zeman
Marine plankton form the base of ocean food webs and support valuable fisheries. Our research is focused on gelatinous plankton in particular because -- due to their fragile, watery bodies—they have historically been understudied yet, they are key members of marine ecosystems. We work at the intersection of biology and physics to gain a mechanistic understanding of how marine plankton interact with one another and within their fluid environment.
Our group uses a variety of tools including in situ video, kinematic analysis, and flow visualization to understand how the environment is experienced at the organismal scale. These observations can be related to smaller-scale physiological problems or to larger-scale population patterns and food-web dynamics.
Students working in the lab use innovative techniques and a mechanistic approach to investigate how organisms function in the marine environment, and more broadly, to understand ecological roles and evolutionary relationships. Students work either on the Eugene campus in the Institute of Ecology and Evolution or at the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology in Charleston. We work off the Oregon coast in the northern California current as well as field locations around the world.
Dr. Sutherland is dedicated to collaborating across disciplines, mentoring the next generation of scientists and communicating research findings to broader audiences through collaborations with journalists and artists.