About FjordPhyto

Sharing Science

Bringing science to the public is very important to us! Adventurous polar visitors not only get to see the amazing beauty and wildlife of these remote regions, they get to contribute to the legacy of polar research through hands-on citizen science. Expert polar guides teach passengers about the changing ecosystems, providing a perspective on ocean life they may not have previously considered.

Community Effort

FjordPhyto brings polar travelers and scientists together for a Citizen Science approach to understanding changes in marine ecosystems within fjords along in the Arctic and along the west Antarctic Peninsula.

We love challenges

The polar regions are vast and difficult to access year round. Some scientific monitoring occurs, but there is still so much to learn. Luckily, there is a vibrant ship-based community of travelers ready to engage in science. These ships visit polar fjords throughout the northern and austral summers.


Glacial Meltwater

Polar regions are experiencing rapid rates of temperature rise and glacial ice melting. Which fjords experience a greater influx of this melted glacial water?

phytoplankton community

Just like wildflowers blooming in a field, not all wildflowers or fields are the same. What types of phytoplankton communities do we see amongst various fjords and how do they differ?

Long Term

Monitoring change within the dynamic polar regions, requires long-term observations. With the help of polar passengers, FjordPhyto focuses on monitoring changes in fjord phytoplankton communities week-to-week, month-to-month, and year-to-year.

Why does this matteR?

Antarctic Ecosystems

Researchers are discovering that fjords along the west Antarctic Peninsula are hotspots of biological activity and biodiversity.  Intense phytoplankton blooms occur throughout the summer feeding animals that live in the water and on the seafloor. One of the most crucial animals to the Antarctic ecosystem are krill. Krill feed penguins, seals, and whales.  Antarctica remains the most pristine region in the world. Yet, despite it’s remoteness, it is experiencing the most rapid rates of warming due to climate change.

Arctic ecosystems

The Arctic is an ocean covered with drifting ice, hemmed in by surrounding continents. In winter new ice forms and snow accumulates. In summer, the ice melts rapidly, winds and currents keep the pack ice in forever motion, forming great pressure ridges. Fjords in the Arctic are not thought to be biodiversity hotspots like those in Antarctica.


The FjordPhyto collaboration between scientists, tour operators, polar guides, and travelers all started with an email and a serendipitous rendez-vous in the Antarctic.

  • 2015, May – First email contact between polar guides (Bob Gilmore) at Polar Latitudes and FjordEco researchers.
  • 2015, Dec – Serendipitous rendez-vous in the Antarctic.
  • 2016, Feb/March – First trial sampling season of FjordPhyto (Polar Latitudes – microscopy).
  • 2016, Fall – Graduate student Allison Cusick (Lee) joins forces with Dr. Maria Vernet to contribute to Master’s Capstone and PhD Thesis.
  • 2016 – 2017 – Second sampling season of FjordPhyto (Polar Latitudes, G Adventures – microscopy –  results published 2019 here).
  • 2017, March – FjordPhyto citizen science concept presented at GRC: Polar Marine Science conference, California.
  • 2017, May – FjordPhyto introduced at the Citizen Science Association Conference, Minnesota.
  • 2017, June – Full FjordPhyto sampling plan developed. Allison Cusick (Lee) receives her Master’s degree in Marine Biodiversity & Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
  • 2017, Sept – FjordPhyto receives launch support from National Science Foundation Public Participation in STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) Research (PPSR). Allison Cusick begins the PhD program at Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
  • 2017, Oct – FjordPhyto trained personnel at AECO/IAATO Polar Field Guide Staff conference, Iceland.
  • 2017 – 2018 – Sampling season of FjordPhyto (Polar Latitudes, G Adventures, Antarctica21, Hanse Explorer, Lindblad Expeditions, Quixote Expeditions).
  • 2017, Dec – Allison joins Antarctica21 as Guest Scientist to meet staff and travelers, improve FjordPhyto logistics, and learn more about the region. Allison collects additional samples for her and Martina Mascioni’s PhD theses.
  • 2018, Spring – FjordPhyto samples begin to be processed and analyzed.
  • 2018, May – FjordPhyto presented at Association of Polar Early Career Scientists (APECS) International Online Conference.
  • 2018, June – FjordPhyto presents at POLAR 2018 Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) conference, Switzerland.
  • 2018 – 2019 – Sampling season of FjordPhyto (Polar Latitudes, G Adventures, Antarctica21, Hurtigruten, Ocean Expeditions, Quixote Expeditions, Cheesemans’ Ecological Safaris). Allison Cusick joins Antarctica21 M/V Ocean Nova and Cheesemans’ Ecological Safaris M/V Ioffeas Lecturer (Dec – Mar).
  • 2019, Mar – FjordPhyto presented by Allison Cusick at CitSci2019 conference in Raleigh, North Carolina
  • 2019, Apr – FjordPhyto presented by Martina Mascioni at SCAR (SC- HASS) conference in Ushuaia, Argentina
  • 2019, June – FjordPhyto/Allison Cusick attends the Building the NASA Citizen Science Community Workshop in Tuscon, Arizona
  • 2019, Aug – FIRST PUBLICATION – Mascioni et al., 2019  – Mascioni, M., Almandoz, G.O., Cefarelli, A.O., Cusick, A.M., Ferrario, M.E., Vernet, M. (2019). Phytoplankton composition and bloom formation in unexplored nearshore waters of the western Antarctic Peninsula. Polar Biology 1-14.
  • 2019, Sept – FjordPhyto presented by Allison Cusick at AECO/IAATO Field Staff Conference, Sturbridge, MA.
  • 2019, Oct/Nov – FjordPhyto joins with Hurtigruten for Molecular Learning Lab on board new M/S Roald Amundsen
  • 2019 – 2020 –  Sampling season of FjordPhyto (Polar Latitudes, G Adventures, Antarctica21, Hurtigruten, Quixote Expeditions). Allison Cusick joins Antarctica21 M/V Magellan and M/V Ocean Nova as Lecturer (Nov – Feb).
  • 2020, Jan – SECOND PUBLICATION – Cusick et al., 2020  – Cusick, A. M., Gilmore, R., Bombosch, A., Mascioni, M., Almandoz, G. O., & Vernet, M. (2020). POLAR TOURISM AS AN EFFECTIVE RESEARCH TOOL. Oceanography33(1), 50-61.
  • 2020, Feb – FjordPhyto presented at the Ocean Sciences Meeting Conference, San Diego, CA.


Check out our blog link for more in depth stories!

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