A Ph.D. student (Christina Gwaltney) at the Oceanographic Center of NSU has isolated several unusual naked filose amoebae from the mangrove waters of the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in Naples, Florida. Filose amoebae represent a taxonomic challenge for protozoologists since most of them are new to Science. Interestingly, it has been suggested that all naked filose amoebae are actually stages in the life cycle of dinoflagellates. If true, this would have important implications for our understanding of harmful algal blooms, since any new information concerning their life histories would help to develop successful models for predicting bloom events.
This study proposes to manipulate cultures of naked filose amoebae to explore the hypothesis that dinoflagellates can exist as trophic filose amoeboid stages. Additional objectives of the culture manipulation trials will be to identify and enumerate these amoebae in mangroves, name and describe novel species, and describe the diversity of species found under a variety of culture conditions. This final objective addresses the hypothesis that most protists enjoy worldwide distribution as a result of their small size, which facilitates their dispersal. If this is the case, their absence in samples may be due to undersampling of habitats and inadequate methods for the detection of rare species. Manipulation of cultures should reveal the 'emergence' of species previously undetected. Since the techniques to be utilized are relatively straightforward, there is an opportunity to partner with the University School and train up to 5 advanced placement high school science students in microbiological techniques. The students will benefit by being involved in an exciting, ongoing research program and the project benefits by additional laboratory help. This proposal asks for funding to provide salary for a temporary employee assistant to make this cooperative research and educational activity a reality.