Without plankton, the oceans die, and we die. Not only are plankton at the bottom of the food chain—meaning most ocean life depends on it—plankton are also responsible for removing half of all CO2 from the atmosphere during photosynthesis. Plankton also create a large amount of the oxygen we breathe.

“Plankton is our planet’s most prolific life form, and the food it generates makes up the base layer of the global food chain. The variety of shapes among plankton species shames plants on land, showing more range in size than the difference between moss and redwood trees. There are more plankton cells in the sea than our current count of stars in the entire universe.” — David Biello, Aeon

Recent research conducted by the Tara Oceans group and described in a special series in the journal Science confirm that climate change will have an impact on plankton, but a lot more research is needed to understand exactly what that will be. The three and a half year global expedition took 35,000 samples of plankton from 200 locations world wide, and came home with reams of data to study.

Along with data, the scientists also took an amazing series of photographs. These plankton are beautiful! Who knew?!?! Check out the photographs from the expedition and gain a whole new appreciation for plankton.

Tara regularly hosts artists to record the experiences of scientists on their expeditions. From this link, click on Art > Exhibitions to learn more about the past and upcoming exhibitions, and Art > Artwork to learn more about the artists that have accompanied the Tara scientists.