animation: Lisa Roberts

Sydney 2007

McMurdo Dry Valleys Long-Term Ecological Research

Diatoms (a form of phytoplankton) appear as breathing forms,
changing their patterns to a cyclic rhythm.
The diatom's gesture refers to our connection
to these invisible forms through breath.

Take one deep breath, pause ...
breathe out and another in,
pause and contemplate that the last breath
was a life-giving gift from organisms
many of us have never heard of.
Phytoplankton, those tiny plants
floating around in the vast openness of the oceans,
tirelessly working and giving their lives
so that we humans and every other animal on earth
can breathe comfortably (van der Merwe and Lannuzel, 2010).



McMurdo Dry Valleys Long-Term Ecological Research
2004 [accessed online 5 May 2009]



Zoology professor Elena Litchman,
with MSU colleague Christopher Klausmeier and Kohei Yoshiyama
of the University of Tokyo,
explored how nutrient limitation
affects the evolution of the size of diatoms
in different environments.
Their findings underscore potential consequences
for aquatic food webs and climate shifts.

"They are globally important
since they 'fix' a significant amount of carbon,"
Litchman explained of the single-cell diatoms.
"When they die in the ocean, they sink to the bottom
carrying the carbon from the atmosphere with them.
They perform a tremendous service to the environment."

Science Daily (Mar. 24, 2009),
citing Litchman, E. et al.,
Contrasting size evolution in marine and freshwater diatoms.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2009


...bodies of water different in salinity,
nutrient content and acidity
favour different diatom species.

When the optimal environment
for different species has been charted,
the changes in the distribution of the species
tell something directly
about the changes in the environment.


Jan Weckstrom,
Environmental Change Research Unit
University of Helsinki Quarterly magazine, Spring 2005


Jan Weckstrom describes bodies of water
as favouring different diatom species.
This suggests that water can feel.