– Dr. Eric Thosteson, Florida Tech assistant professor of ocean engineering, has received a
$50,000 grant from the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution to analyze the light, or bioluminescence, exhibited by organisms in the ocean.
Thosteson will analyze measurements of the “light shows” created by “excited” microscopic organisms in the Gulf of Maine. Various organisms respond
differently, with differing intensities, durations and patterns of light. The measurements were created during field tests of an extremely sensitive
bathyphotometer, which was designed and built at Harbor Branch.
“Our goal is to classify the species involved, discover where they are in the water column and in what concentrations. Many of the organisms are
microscopic and may, therefore, be more quickly identified by their “‘light,'” said Thosteson. “Imagine identifying each of the ingredients in soup by
tasting the soup. We’ll try to identify the bioluminescent constituents based on movies of ‘light soup.'”
Ultimately, if this research leads to rapid assessment of these species present in water, the information could be helpful in developing monitoring systems
to warn of high concentrations of the phytoplankton responsible for red tides, for example. There could be tactical advantages for the military as well, as
the research could led to the ability to identify adversaries from their “bioluminescent wakes.”