Research areas:

Biological and functional diversity of plankton communities

To understand how the estuarine and marine pelagic communities are shaped by natural and anthropogenic factors, to identify current and emerging pressures on the ecosystems. We have a long-term (>20 ys) experience in the field studies of phytoplankton and zooplankton in the Curonian Lagoon as well as increasing interest in mesocosm use allowing to maintain ecosystem complexity in experimental studies.

Harmful algal blooms

Nutrient enrichment and warming sea results in increasing frequency of algal blooms producing secondary metabolites toxic to aquatic and terrestrial organisms and poses an increasing concern for human exposure via the consumption of fish and recreational contact. We aim to identify algal toxins from the dominant cyanobacterial producers Microcystis and Planktothrix in the lagoon and the coastal waters and tissues of aquatic organisms.

Ciliates

Ciliates (group of protozoans) are key component of the pelagic microbial food webs. Zooplankton predation on ciliates functions as an important link between the microbial community (bacteria, picoplankton, and flagellates) and higher trophic level zoo-planktivores (i.e.fish). Therefore, we aim developing high standard taxonomic and quantitative analysis of ciliate communities in the field and mesocosm studies of environmental pressures on the productivity of pelagic ecosystems.

Food webs

Eutrophication, climate change and distribution of invasive species could alter aquatic food chains leading to decrease in fishery stocks and alter the feeding condition for various organisms, including endangered species. Applying stable isotope analysis, we aim to identify food sources, trophic levels and migrations of aquatic organisms. Our goal is to predict the trophic pathways of organic matter from the base to the top of the food web and make it possible to trace the fate of contaminants and algal toxins in the estuarine and coastal ecosystems.

Applications in biotechnology

Many cyanobacterial metabolites show activities of potential biotechnological or pharmaceutical application. Our objective is to detect bioactive metabolites in the Curonian lagoon phytoplankton biomass and Planktothrix agardhii strains isolated from the Curonian Lagoon.

Applications in aquaculture

We aim to transfer our knowledge on the natural ecological processes and skills to artificial systems such as aquaculture ponds and RAS. Our objective is to test advance applications of newly developed products and technologies in aquaculture.

Team:

Dr. Jūratė Lesutienė
Head, marine food webs, stable isotopes and mysids

dr. Zita Rasuolė Gasiūnaitė
Probiotic technologies in aquaculture

Dr. Renata Pilkaitytė
Phytoplankton microscopy, cultivation of microalgae, analysis of algal toxins

Dr. Evelina Grinienė
Ciliate taxonomic analysis, dilution experiments, flow citometry

Dr. Rasa Morkūnė
Marine ornithology, stable isotope analysis, food web modelling

Donata Overlingė
PhD student, Cultivation of microalgae, analysis of algal toxins, testing of algal bioactive products