Open and frugal modular imaging platform for citizen oceanography

What are Plankton?

"Drifting endlessly, midway between the sea of air above and the depths of the abyss below, these strange creatures and the marine inflorescence that sustains them are called 'plankton' — the wanderers" - Rachel Carson

Helping fix 30-50% of the worlds carbon dioxide and providing the foundation of a global food chain, plankton comprise the largest daily movement of biomass in the world as they traverse the oceans. The shapes, colors, and movements of these billions of creatures are as vast as the seas that sustains them. Understanding plankton is crucial to understanding the world around us, and the effect we have on that world. A hurdle for this type of study has been the sheer scale of area to explore, and the limited resources of research fleets and specialized equipment. By developing a way to scale up high quality visual exploration and documentation we can greatly increase our understanding of the complicated web of life around us, and how we are in turn impacting it.

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What is a PlanktoScope?

PlanktoScope is a frugal high-throughput microscope platform designed with an open-hardware, open-software mentality. It was conceived within the idea of equipping the thousands of sailors exploring the oceans with a high quality instrument suitable for deepening our knowledge of the sea around us. The core of PlanktoScope lies in the ability of its community to redesign, customize, and hack individual platforms while expanding its functionality to explore niches and approach questions all over the globe.

How can I get involved?

PlanktoScope is a completely open platform. The core of the PlanktoScope project is a basis in an evolving network of designers and users collaborating to increase the impact and availability of the tools. Building a community of users will enable PlanktoScope to grow with capabilities not yet imagined.

For around $500, and with parts freely available in most parts of the globe, any person with the desire to engage can begin building a PlanktoScope. This website contains the information needed to assemble, test, and begin collecting data on your PlanktoScope.


The components of the PlanktoScope are available from many vendors, online and otherwise.

Once you have all the components of a PlanktoScope, follow this guide for the assembly that should take a few hours.

Test the focus, the pump, the light and the stream of the Pi Camera over the dashboard deployed by Node-RED.



Node-RED is a programming tool for wiring together hardware devices, APIs and online services in new and interesting ways.


MorphoCut is an image processing library designed to handle large volumes of biological, medical, oceanographic and remote sensing image data.


EcoTaxa is a web application dedicated to the visual exploration and the taxonomic annotation of images that illustrate the beauty of planktonic biodiversity.


Model on Fusion 360

The CAD of the PlanktoScope is open on Fusion 360

Engage on GitHub

Feel free to visit the GitHub and engage if you want.

Chat on Slack

The community is using Slack to communicate.

Classify on EcoTaxa

To join EcoTaxa, you just need to create an account.


Thibaut Pollina

Adam Larson

Romain Bazile

Fabien Lombard

Manu Prakash

Colomban de Vargas

David Le Guen

Rebecca Konte

Clémentine Moulin

Clara Trellu

Cael B.B.

Anna Oddone


Built by Dyche Mullins at Mullins Lab - University of California

Built by Nicola White at Institute of Infection, Veterinary and Ecological Sciences - University of Liverpool

Built by Guillaume Le Guen at Konk Ar Lab - Le Temps des Sciences and Saint Brieuc Factory

Built by Alex Barth at Department of Biological Sciences - University of South Carolina

Built by Ana Fernandez Carrera at Biological Oceanography - Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research Warnemünde - IOW

Built by Salima Rafai at Laboratoire Interdisciplinaire de Physique - CNRS & Université Grenoble Alpes

Browse the different replications registered around the world