Phytoplankton Assessment of the Laurentian Great Lakes

Solicitation number F5211-200495

Publication date

Closing date and time 2021/03/01 13:00 EST


    Statement of Work

    Title: Phytoplankton Assessment of the Laurentian Great Lakes


    It is DFO’s mission to safeguard Canada’s healthy and productive aquatic ecosystems which provide sustainable resources to Canadians. Phytoplankton are an important component of the aquatic food web providing food resources which sustain fisheries. Consequently the health of the phytoplankton community has enormous implications for the health of an aquatic ecosystem, its fisheries and fisheries management. Detailed assessments of phytoplankton biomass and species composition are a critical component of managing aquatic ecosystems. Describing the state of the phytoplankton communities is the responsibility of DFO – GLLFAS as part of its core mandate. Understanding seasonal and spatial trends in phytoplankton communities is essential to fulfill this mission. 


    DFO- GLLFAS has been collecting data on phytoplankton communities in the Great Lakes since the 1970s. This long term and unique data set is invaluable for assessing the impacts of ecological changes and is used to inform management actions undertaken by all levels of governments (federal, provincial and municipal) to improve water quality as well as detect alterations to the watershed. Phytoplankton also provide an early warning that the state of the watershed may be changing and that new management actions may need to be taken.

    Phytoplankton taxonomy is a highly specialized field for which a very limited number of experienced taxonomists are available. There is a great deal of biodiversity (over 500 species identified in the Great Lakes) and the differences among species can be very subtle. Identifying phytoplankton to species is no simple task and requires a very high level of experience and training to identify the smallest sized organisms. As DFO does not have the internal capacity to identify phytoplankton taxa, it has outsourced this work. GLLFAS has relied primarily on 3 taxonomists over the past 40 years whose work we consider excellent and whose level of integrity needs to be maintained. These were all 1 person operations and the individuals have retired. 

    The following publications highlight the extent of DFO’s past work:

    • Munawar, M., Munawar, I.F., 1996. Phytoplankton Dynamics in the North American Great Lakes, Vol. 1. Ontario, Erie & St. Clair. Ecovision World Monograph Series. SPB Academic Publishing, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
    • Munawar, M., Munawar, I.F., 2000. Phytoplankton dynamics in the North American Great Lakes, Vol. 2. Lakes Huron, Superior, & Michigan. Ecovision World Monograph Series. Backhuys Publishers, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

      With respect to our research program, we have a great need to ensure consistent identifications to maintain the integrity of our data sets in order to provide the expert scientific advice demanded of us.

      Specific Scope of the Requirement

      The purpose is to provide phytoplankton taxonomic expertise in support of GLLFAS programs to undertake identification of phytoplankton to the species level. Water samples were collected from depths corresponding to the epilimnion, photic zone or an integrated depth (typically 0-20m) depending on the project and station sampled. Whole water (non-concentrated) samples are preserved in 1-2% acidified Lugol’s iodine solution and stored in amber glass bottles at room temperature until delivery to the contractor. Taxonomic analysis and enumeration will be carried out adhering to the principles of the Utermöhl inverted microscope technique.



    1. Supplier must have access to inverted microscope, settling chambers, and other equipment necessary to process samples;
    2. Recommended taxonomic keys include but are not limited to: Geitler (1932), Hubber-Pestalozzi (1941), Bourrelly (1966, 1968), Patrick and Reimer (1966, 1975), Komárek and Anagnostidis (1986), and Krammer and Lange-Bertalot (1986)
    3. Use a stratified counting method and multiple magnifications to identify taxa of all sizes (e.g. 125X, 400X, 650X) and include smaller picoplankton (<2 μm) and nanoplankton (2-20 μm) in addition to larger net plankton (>20 μm).
    4. Identify phytoplankton taxa to the species level as often as possible with in a reasonable time frame using current literature and current knowledge. 
    5. Estimate abundance of natural units and cells for each taxa located
    6. Estimates of cell volume for each species are obtained by routine measurements of 30-50 cells of an individual species and application of the geometric formula best fitted to the shape of the cell (not including floatation mucilage or appendages, Vollenweider 1968; Rott 1981). A specific gravity of 1 is used to convert from biovolume for each taxa located.


    1. A written report to be submitted to the Project Authority on or before March 31, of applicable fiscal year. The report shall list in Excel format: 

    Site, Date Sampled, Common Name (i.e. green, blue-green, Diatom etc.), Taxon, Microscope Factor, Magnification, Fields of View Counted, Subsample Volume (mL), Units Counted, mean number of cells/unit, Unit Density (units/L), Cell Density (cells/L),Mean Biomass (mg/cell), Biomass (mg/m3 assuming a specific density of 1)

    1. Full taxonomic hierarchy and author for all taxon identified (as a separate table if preferred).

    Common Name (i.e. green, blue-green, Diatom etc.), Phylum, Order, Family, Genus, Species, Author.

    Specifications and Standards

    The contractor must:

    • Use a modified Utermohl (1958) stratified counting technique such as Findlay and Kling (1998)
    • Use acceptable nomenclature for Taxonomic ID in accordance with ITIS ( although DFO recognizes that this list it not complete. Full taxonomic hierarchy (and author) of all identified taxon must be provided to the scientific authority in the taxonomy table.
    • Count only whole cells that appear to be viable at time of preservation (i.e. chloroplasts intact)
    • For colonies, a small portion of the colony is counted, and the number of cells is then estimated. Filaments are counted individually.
    • At least 200-400 natural units or 50 mL in volume will be counted in each sample.
    • Count at least 4 natural units for rare taxa
    • Count replicate samples which should be within ±20% of the first count. Replicates will be included on the submitted sample list and will be paid.
    • Be able to follow up on any questions about taxa or data that stands out as potentially incorrect.

    Reporting Requirements

    An informal email indicating the number of samples processed to date is required monthly.

    Responsibilities of client

    1. Provide samples to the contractor for analysis
    2. Pay for return shipment of unused samples.

    Responsibilities of contractor


     All training of the Supplier’s staff, including any familiarization training with respect to acceptable protocols and DFO procedures, is to be provided at the Supplier’s expense. Training of the Supplier’s staff is to not interfere with the contracted level of service and all costs are to be borne by the Supplier.

    Resource Replacement

    Resource replacement is not to be undertaken by the Supplier, and is therefore not applicable.

    Location of Work, Work site and Delivery Point

    All work is to be conducted offsite without the use of crown assets. At the completion of sample analyses, data can be transferred electronically to DFO.

    Method and Source of Acceptance

    Receipt of all required information for a sample and its review by the scientific authority confirming data meets outlined standards will determine completion and satisfaction with the work.


    Bourrelly, P. 1966. Les algues d'eau douce. Tome I: Les algues vertes. Édition N.

    Boubée & Cie, Paris. 572 p.

    Bourrelly, P. 1968. Les algues d'eau douce. Tome II: Les algues jaunes et brunes.

    Édition N. Boubée & Cie, Paris. 440 p.

    Findlay, D.L. and Kling, H.J., 1998. Protocols for measuring biodiversity: phytoplankton in fresh water lakes.

    Geitler, L. 1932. Cyanophyceae. Leipzig. Rabenhorst's Kryptogamenflora 14. 1196 p.

    Hubber-Pestalozzi, G. 1941. Die Binnengewässer. Das Phytoplankton des

    Süsswassers 16 (2:1). 365 p.

    Komárek J. and K. Anagnostidis. 1986. Modern approach to the classification system of

    cyanophytes 2 - Chroococcales. Algological Studies 73: 157-226.

    Krammer, K. and H. Lange-Bertalot. 1986. Süßwasserflora von Mitteleuropa:

    Bacillariophyceae. Gustav Fischer Verlag, Stuttgart. 876 p.

    Patrick, R. and C.W. Reimer. 1966. The diatoms of the United States, 1. Academy of

    Natural Sciences Monograph No. 13. 688 p.

    Patrick, R. and C.W. Reimer. 1975. The diatoms of the United States, 2. Academy of

    Natural Sciences Monograph No. 13. 213 p.

    Rott, E. 1981. Some results from phytoplankton counting intercalibrations.

    Schweizerische Zeitschrift für Hydrologie 43: 43-62.

    Utermöhl, H., 1958. Toward the improvement of the quantitative phytoplankton method. Mitteilungen-Internationale Vereiningung fur Limnologie, 9, pp.1-38.

    Vollenweider, R.A. 1968. Scientific fundamentals of the eutrophication of lakes and

    flowing waters, with particular reference to nitrogen and phosphorus as factors in

    eutrophication. Technical Report. Organization for Economic Cooperation and

    Development, Paris. 182 p.

    Contract duration

    Refer to the description above for full details.

    Trade agreements

    • Canadian Free Trade Agreement (CFTA)

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    Contact information

    Contracting organization

    Fisheries and Oceans Canada
    200 Kent St, Station 13E228
    Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0E6
    Contracting authority
    Plante, Karine
    301 Bishop drive
    Fredericton, NB, E3C 2M6

    Buying organization(s)

    Fisheries and Oceans Canada
    200 Kent St, Station 13E228
    Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0E6
    Bidding details

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    Commodity - GSIN
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