:: blog ::

Doing Planks

There’s a strange and magical beauty in plankton. Nature Journalist Janai Southworth has a microscope and hosts Pacific Plankton, a plankton-viewing livestream on Twitch. What an opportunity to take a field trip to the microcosm and spend some time with amazing tiny lifeforms.

I spent an hour on the livestream, seeing things like diatoms, veligers, copepods and dinoflagelattes. (Most of these are misspelled in my notes, but inspired follow-up research to learn more.) The Twitch streams are recorded if you want to experience the magic on your own schedule (see link in the resources section.)

Some standouts:

Diatom gardens. Clusters of these crystal-like lifeforms grow on other plankton. We saw a fantastic example of a garden on a copepod.

Lumpy bits are poop. There’s a lot of plankton-scale poop in the ocean.

A tiny strand of plastic. Smaller than a nematode, and just as deadly. 🙁

Sketch-capture of the observations & experience

I was drawing ‘real fast with a pen. Color added after. Images scanned and touched up for clarity.


I learned that the fun starts when the pen starts…although I was intimidated, diving in and “looking with a pen” was illuminating and helped me see differently. There was so much in each view it was overwhelming…so I just focused and kept the pen moving.

I was surprised that there is SO MUCH in a drop of seawater! (Something we all intellectually know, but the vivid reminder was awesome!) Also, the momentum and direction of movement of the plankton was challenging to capture but totally cool.

Next time…So much to consider; there’s a lot to absorb and learn from this new practice. I may try working on toned paper to try to capture the luminous quality of the animals. A little pre-research would help to take advantage of the moment. Practicing how to draw translucency. A whole host of possibilities for next time.

Links & Resources