Plankton Lab

Though our tows at sea differ a little from what you may experience in the lab or nearby field, the principles are the same.  Below is a lesson outline and activity for collecting, studying, and fixing plankton.  There are also directions attached to make your own sieve, plankton net, and how to make a 10% formalin and Rose Bengal stain.


Lesson Overview    

This activity is designed to introduce participants to plankton that is found in your local waters, as well as give them a broad definition and some examples of the role of plankton in the marine world.  The students conduct a plankton tow and study their sample under compound microscopes in the lab.  They identify the organisms on their slide, and are challenged to discuss why plankton play an imperative role in this and other ecosystems in the world.


  1. Students will collect plankton, using plankton net, for observation.
  2. Students will sieve out the plankton into a concentrated collection for study.
  3. Students will identify the type and species of plankton on their slide.
  4. Students will define plankton in their written observations when they classify the type and species of plankton.
  5. Students will record observations based on the plankton on their slide.

Plankton Lab

Plankton Lab Observation Sheet

Fixing and Staining Procedure

DIY Plankton Net

DIY Plankton Sieve


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