In Guyana, a recent boom in oil exploration and discoveries has resulted in associated demand for environmental reporting. As part of an environmental bioassessment of the Guyana marine resources, EAI was contracted to identify the larval fish, zooplankton, and harmful algal bloom (HAB) phytoplankton species present in the near and offshore waters of Guyana. EAI’s Lead Taxonomist Dr. Matt Scripter and Biologist Erica Oliva packed their microscopes and flew to Georgetown, Guyana in 2019 to take on the challenge of sorting and identifying plankton with limited resources in a makeshift lab.
The high diversity in Guyanese plankton samples made the long microscope hours fly by. What fascinating larval fish were in those samples! Most species were not ones EAI has found in the North Atlantic, and a surprising number had not been described as larvae at all. The invertebrate plankton ranged from the familiar commercial shrimp and blue crab relatives to exotic pteropods (AKA “sea butterflies”), a pelagic snail. The rarest catches were a caddisfly larva and freshwater banjo catfish that had washed out of a coastal river to be captured in a plankton net.
Long work hours were the rule, but EAI staff took a few opportunities to experience Guyanese culture. On Erica’s last day in Georgetown, a massive parade with carnival dancers drew us in. On Matt’s last day in Georgetown, he walked to the city pier to chat with anglers and get a view of the 280-mile Dutch-built seawall protecting most of the country’s coastline. The cultural bouillabaisse is nowhere more evident than in the Guyanese food which is Caribbean without the coconut and always with a side of spectacularly hot scotch bonnet sauce.
EAI staff are ready and willing to travel anywhere, put in the hours, and complete projects with the highest of quality standards.