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Alternative Image-Based Technique for Phytoplankton Cell Counts in Shellfish Aquaculture

Shellfish aquaculture presents a sustainable alternative food
source to satisfy global demands and conserve species at risk of
over-harvest. Standard operations in shellfish aquaculture begin at
a hatchery where adults are spawned and larvae are reared (figure
1). Early-life stages have an elevated sensitivity to unfavorable
conditions (e.g. diet, seawater chemistry, etc.) and pose a
production limitation. A successful hatchery is largely dependent
on accurate counts of phytoplankton batch cultures to estimate
daily feeding routines, optimize shellfish production, and avoid
sub-lethal harm during life-stages susceptible to overfeeding or
starvation (figure 2). However, common techniques to quantify
phytoplankton cultures place hatcheries at a detriment to labor
intensive protocols and instrumentation.


Here, we describe use of the Cellometer Auto T4 (Nexcelom
Bioscience, LLC) in a commercial hatchery setting as an alternative
to conventional methods used to count phytoplankton cells in
aquaculture (e.g. hemocytometer and coulter counter). We report
on the ability to yield rapid and accurate counts and cell size data
with an automated image-based analysis. Results are reported
from an experiment when researchers used cell concentrations of
phytoplankton cultures to calculate the volume required to feed
juvenile shellfish a mixed-species diet of three phytoplankton
species.

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