Plankton Tow

Plankton Tows are a great Oceanographic tool used to sample the microscopic life in the ocean. A jar is attached to the end of the net, while the two are pulled by a boat or dingy. In order to increase the amount of plankton in the jar, a longer tow is suggested. As the tow is pulled through the water excess water will exit through the mesh netting while the plankton is trapped into the jar at the end. To examine these microscopic organisms, you will need a microscope!


Depending on the size of the mesh netting you will collect different types of plankton. Large mesh netting will only collect large zooplankton (animal plankton), while smaller netting will allow you to collect not only those large zooplankton but also phytoplankton (plant-like plankton)! Here at CIMI we use the smallest mesh netting possible to allow students to see both zoo and phytoplankton. After examining you plankton sample you may be able to tell what ocean organisms are reproducing, or how the ocean’s temperature or currents are behaving.