Phytoplankton Monitoring Network

The National Phytoplankton Monitoring Network (PMN) is a community-based network of volunteers monitoring marine phytoplankton and harmful algal blooms (HABs). PMN recognizes the interrelationships between humans and coastal ecosystems while providing volunteer citizen scientists with meaningful opportunities for hands-on science engagement. The PMN enhances the nation’s ability to respond to and manage the growing threat posed by HABs by collecting important data for species composition and distribution in coastal waters and creating working relationships between volunteers and NOAA HAB researchers and state managers.

Data Collection

Citizen scientists collect data that feeds the Phytoplankton Monitoring Network. Explore the data submitted by the network or submit your own findings.



Train citizen scientists to monitor harmful phytoplankton and environmental conditions in marine and estuarine waters.


Provide aquaculture farms with advanced warning of HABs to empower growers to mitigate the effects.


Train citizen scientists to monitoring harmful cyanobacteria in Great Lakes and inland water bodies.


Tribal – Establish HAB monitoring programs and laboratories throughout Alaska where subsistence harvesters are at risk of illness or death because toxin levels are unknown.

Phytoplankton Monitoring Network Spotlights

Woman smiling at camera while holding a sea turtle

Mary Pringle, original PMN volunteer!

Featured Volunteer

Meet Mary Pringle, one of the ORIGINAL PMN volunteers since it began in 2001. Mary’s sample site in Isle of Palms, South Carolina has provided 22 years of continuous phytoplankton data and she feels fortunate to never have experienced a HAB event. Her dedication to ocean health is evident based on her decades of volunteer work with many other programs, including the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources' Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network, the Lowcountry Marine Mammal Network, and serving on the IOP Environmental Advisory Committee. Mary loves to find Bacillaria expanding and contracting on a slide and appreciates the beauty of Ditylum and Odontella. Thank you for your years of participation in PMN, Mary, and happy retirement!

Featured Phytoplankton

Karenia brevis is a photosynthetic dinoflagellate that can potentially cause harmful algal blooms (HABs), sometimes referred to as ‘red tide’ even though blooms of this organism can be other colors like brown or orange. This single-celled phytoplankton can produce toxins, known as brevetoxins, that can have devastating effects on marine ecosystems and human health. It is harmful to marine animals and can cause respiratory distress and/or a neurotoxicological illness called Neurotoxic Shellfish Poisoning (NSP) in humans. It is commonly found in the Gulf of Mexico, especially along the west coast of Florida. Each cell is 18-45 μm in size, slightly wider than it is long, with a slightly peaked top and bi-lobed bottom. Its two flagella allow it to move up and down in the water column in a distinctive manner. Monitoring and management of Karenia brevis blooms is critical for the protection of the environment and public health.

Microscopic view of phytoplankton, Karenia brevis

Karenia brevis