Student Researcher Julian Kimura Shines a Light on Copepods
Copepods are super small crustaceans that play a big role in the ocean's
food web, helping to sustain much larger animals, everything from
lobsters to different types of fish to baleen whales. In fact, some
ocean animals are such picky eaters that they only eat copepods. These
choice eating habits become a problem for aquariums because the only way
to keep such fussy dieters happy and healthy is by having easy access
to copepods. That's where CMA student researcher Julian Kimura comes in.
a lot of endangered species and threatened animals that
research institutions are trying to keep and many of these animals only eat copepods," explained Kimura. "When kept in captivity, the animals end up starving to
death because the copepods don't reproduce fast enough to the meet the
demand for food. My project is basically trying to increase the amount
of copepods produced per generation so that animals that can't currently
be kept in captivity can be kept in captivity in the future."
Last year, Kimura researched the copepod species Tigriopus californicus, a type of benthic (bottom dwelling) copepod, which
prefers hanging out in tidepool areas along California's coast. "I tested the variables of food, temperature and light inside of a laboratory culture and found that Isochrysis galbana
yielded about four times the amount from the control," said Kimura.
It turns out that the magic ingredient increasing copepod reproduction each generation, Isochrysis galbana,
is a type of brown algae. Higher light intensity also yielded a positive correlation. This research project and findings led to Kimura placing 1st
at the Palos Verdes Science Fair, 2nd at the Los Angeles County Science
Fair, 3rd in his category at the California State Science Fair and 4th
at the Intel International Science Fair in spring of 2011.
This fall, Kimura will be launching new research on
copepods on a pelagic species called Acartia tonsa.
Pelagic is a term referring to the open ocean versus the benthic
species he researched last year.
Raising a pelagic copepod species in captivity means a new set of challenges. "The problem with Acartia tonsa
is that they are generally a pain to culture because if the water isn't
agitated enough they get stuck on the surface tension and die; and if
there's too much agitation then the water will break off the antennas
and prevent them from eating" explain Kimura. "They also need a constant
temperature otherwise they die, and they can't be exposed to gravity
because their bodies weren't designed to withstand it."
To tackle this
new challenge, Kimura is in the process of designing a new tank for
this species of pelagic copepod to help keep it alive in captivity. He hopes to
increase the yield in the same way he did last year for the benthic