Cheryl Patel

RIPTIDES Trainee Cheryl Patel
As a Bay Area native, I am excited to explore the San Francisco Estuary and surrounding wetlands from an ecologist's perspective. I work with Dr. Wim Kimmerer, and my research is focused on lower food web dynamics in the upper reaches of the estuary within wetland habitats. I am investigating and quantifying copepod feeding on cyanobacteria. Copepods, a type of zooplankton, have been known to consume phytoplankton like diatoms and flagellates, because these microscopic plants are nutritious foods. Cyanobacteria is not considered an important or common food item for these tiny crustacea because of it's small size and lower nutrition value. However, recent copepod diet studies tell us that we don't know the whole story, that phytoplankton isn't the only food copepods are consuming. Therefore, using molecular techniques, I will determine how much of a copepod's diet consists of cyanobacteria and whether time of day impacts their consumption of the blue-green algae. When I'm not behind a microscope looking at copepods, I am traveling to new hiking destinations, exploring cityscapes, or snowboarding down bunny slopes.