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Shelley Dawicki
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July 10, 2012
166 Water Street
Woods Hole MA 02543

CPR of a Different Sort: The Continuous Plankton Recorder

The Continuous Plankton Recorder or CPR consists of the three-foot long tow body and the sampling cartridge (front), which fits into the opening at left. The roll of silk mesh to capture plankton samples is visible on the cartridge. (Credit: Chris Melrose, NEFSC/NOAA)
Daniel E. Smith (pictured with the CPR) of the NEFSC's Narragansett Laboratory has been transporting riders and equipment to vessels and working with the ship's crews since the beginning of the NEFSC's CPR program. He also maintains all the program's CPR equipment and makes sure the samples get to the lab for analysis each month. (Credit: Chris Melrose, NEFSC/NOAA)
Related Links
How the CPR Works
The Power of Plankton (animation)
The NEFSC Surveys
NEFSC Surveys Join Global Alliance
How the CPR Works

Although specific ships and the companies that participate in the Ship of Opportunity program (SOOP) have changed through the years, the Continuous Plankton Recorder (CPR) itself has not changed much since fisheries biologist Sir Alister Hardy developed the first prototype and merchant vessel version more than 80 years ago.

The mechanical device is about one meter (just over three feet) in length and is towed at a depth of 10 meters (about 33 feet) from the surface. The simple design of the CPR allows it to be cheaply and easily deployed from volunteer commercial cargo vessels during their normal operations.

Made of bronze, with more recent versions made of stainless steel, the CPR can be towed in rough seas and at routine ship speeds. The self-contained sampling cartridge filters plankton from the water on a band of silk mesh that is continually advanced by rollers, which are driven by water moving past a turbine on the tail of the CPR as it is towed.

As the silk advances it is rolled onto a spool in a small tank filled with a preservative.  A single CPR cartridge can sample up to 500 nautical miles without being reloaded. Once ashore, the sample cartridge is removed and the silk mesh sent to a lab for analysis.

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