Fjord Phyto
Polar citizen science project

EST. 2016

Understanding polar fjords through community effort

FjordPhyto needs your support

Antarctic Peninsula

Image of Antartica

Image courtesy of NASA

The Antarctic Peninsula is the third fastest warming region in the world (Clarke et al., 2006). In this image, scientists at NASA have compiled temperature data since the 1950s to show the degrees warmed per decade.


Steep slopes of fjords

Photo by Allison Cusick

Fjords are narrow inlets along the coast with steep sided valleys carved by past glaciers. They can mainly be found in the Arctic, Norway, Greenland, Iceland, Canada, Alaska, Antarctica, Chile, and New Zealand. Antarctic fjords along the west Antarctic Peninsula are thought to be hotspots for biodiversity, providing refuge for krill and whale aggregations.

Citizen Science

Sample being deposited in container.

Photo courtesy of Bob GIlmore

When the general public partners with professional scientists to do science, it's called Citizen Science. Also known as Public Participation in STEM Research (PPSR).


Microscope image of lozenge-shaped plankton

Diatom photo by Maria Stenzel

Phytoplankton are microscopic, plant-like creatures  that drift in the ocean using sunlight to make energy through a process called photosynthesis.

  1. They make up the foundation of the food system, supporting all other animals such as whales, seals, and penguins.
  2. They play a critical role in the global carbon cycle, drawing carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and into the deep ocean.
  3. They contribute to over half of the Earth’s oxygen — more than the trees and plants on land combined!

That is one mighty invisible forest.

Arctic vs Antarctic Fjords

Arctic vs. Antartica images

Image courtesy of NASA

Arctic and Antarctic fjords do not behave in quite the same way. Due to frequent seasonal freeze/thaw cycles in the Northern Hemisphere, Arctic fjords receive more silt and sediment input from melting glaciers on land. These particles get suspended in the sea and reduce levels of phytoplankton growth. Antarctic fjords do not experience the same level of sediment runoff from land, and researchers are finding an abundance of life in the water and on the fjord seabed.

Food Web

Food web

Image courtesy of BBC

A food web is a way of representing how energy and matter flow between different organisms in an ecosystem. The first link starts with organisms called primary producers, they use sunlight to make energy. Think of phytoplankton in the ocean as being the same as grass and plants on land! They are eaten by other organisms like little swimming ocean animals called zooplankton! The most important zooplankton in the Antarctic ecosystem is the krill. These are then eaten by larger animals such as fish, birds, seals, and whales!
Tour Operators
Happy Citizen Scientists
Fjords Sampled
Samples Collected
Scripps Oceanography logo

This project was supported in part by the NASA’s Citizen Science for Earth Systems Program (CSESP) award # 20-CSESP2020-0039 (2021), and National Science Foundation Public Participation in STEM Research (PPSR) extension to NSF award # PLR-1443705 (2017), as well as from a grant award from Hurtigruten Foundation (2018), and from generous donors (2019). You can help us keep this project going through a financial contribution here – we appreciate all the support!