Neuston Net Research Collective

A Citizen Science Collective To Conduct Plankton Survey-Style Transects


The Neuston Net Research Collective unites the academic world and the international yachting community in an effort to conserve and understand our oceans through scientific research. This unique collective spans a wide range of research topics with one common theme: they all utilize Neuston Nets. Neuston Nets are fine mesh nets often towed behind boats to collect samples of neustonic organisms, algae, plastics, plankton, seawater, and more. Our unique access to these nets allows us to pair proposed or ongoing projects with vessels around the world to collect samples from a wide geographic range.

This citizen science movement engages the yachting community by providing comprehensive onboard kits which allow yacht crews and owners to conduct plankton survey-style transects related to one of our partnered research projects. Learn more about our current projects by browsing below.

Find out if you can participate in our Neuston Net Research Collective by clicking the button below and contacting our team at [email protected].


Research Collaborators



Dr. Mike Parsons,
Florida Gulf Coast University

Research key words: Harmful Algal Blooms, Sargassum, Gambierdiscus, dinoflagellates, algal toxins



Dr. Rebecca Helm,
Georgetown University

Research key words: Ocean surface, cnidarians, neustonic organisms, jellyfish, By-the-Wind Sailor, High Seas Policy, complex life cycles



Dr. Sarah Nelms,
University of Exeter

Research key words: Microplastics, marine vertebrate ecology, marine litter, trophic interactions, ecotoxicology


Dr. Mike Parsons

Dr. Mike Parsons is a professor of Marine Science in the Water School at Florida Gulf Coast University and the Director of FGCU’s Vester Field Station. Dr. Parsons has built a successful research career, receiving over $20 million of extramural funding to study harmful algal blooms and ecosystem health. His work has been cited over 3,000 times in the scientific literature, demonstrating the quality of his work. In addition to working with other researchers around the state to find solutions to our algal bloom problems, he was appointed to the Blue-Green Algae Task Force by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in 2019 to work to reduce the impacts of harmful algae in our region.”


Neuston Net Research: From samples collected by SeaKeepers’ DISCOVERY Yachts, Dr. Parsons and his team at the Vester Field Station will examine the role of floating Sargassum in distributing/transporting Gambierdiscus dinoflagellates around the Greater Caribbean region. Gambierdiscus is an epiphytic dinoflagellate that typically is not transported by water currents. Sargassum may provide a mechanism to facilitate and intensify the movement of Gambierdiscus in the region. This is important to study because several Gambierdiscus species produce toxins (called ciguatoxins) that can move through a coral reef food web and toxify reef fish. When people eat fish that have accumulated enough of these toxins, they can get sick (gastrointestinal and neurological symptoms), in a malady called ciguatera poisoning. The fish most commonly associated with ciguatera are the larger predators, including barracuda, grouper, and large snappers.


Locations for sample collection: Sargassum species are found throughout tropical areas of the world including the Sargasso Sea, Caribbean, North Atlantic Ocean, Florida, and more.


Dr. Rebecca Helm

Dr. Rebecca Helm is an Assistant Professor at Georgetown University. She studies the ecology and evolution of life on the ocean’s surface layer. Organisms at the surface of the ocean create food and shelter for diverse species, from albatross to salmon, sea turtles to sunfish, yet we know very little about surface-living species, where they live, how abundant they are, or the impacts human activity is having on their numbers. She is interested in High Seas policy and the impact of novel emerging activities on their impact on high seas ecosystem. She also uses jellyfish as a model system to study how complex life cycles evolve and change over time.


Blue Button Jellyfish
(Porpita porpita)

Neuston Net Research: From photos of samples collected by SeaKeepers’ DISCOVERY Yachts, Dr. Helm will determine the geographic range and presence of certain neustonic organisms, including the Blue Button Jellyfish (Porpita porpita) and By-the-Wind Sailors (Velella velella).

Locations for sample collection: The neustonic organisms of interest are found Great Pacific Garbage patch and other floating patches of garbage around the world.


Dr. Sarah Nelms

Dr. Sarah Nelms is a lecturer at the University of Exeter’s Center for Ecology and Conservation in England. Her research focuses on the issue of plastic pollution within marine and coastal environments, and its impacts on marine vertebrates such as turtles, seabirds, and marine mammals.

Neuston Net Research: Surface seawater within Falmouth Bay, Cornwall (UK) will be sampled by towing a neuston net. Any suspected microplastics will be characterized (size, shape, colour and polymer type) and enumerated to assess their impact in the seawater off two of Falmouth’s main beaches.


Photographic examples
of microplastics

Locations for sample collection: With support from SeaKeepers’ DISCOVERY Yacht, the Killigrew, samples are collected in Falmouth Harbour located in Falmouth Bay. Sample collection is done once a month over the spring and summer period.


To participate as a DISCOVERY Yacht in one of these research projects, or if you’re a researcher and would like to apply for SeaKeepers to support your project, please contact:


Katie Sheahan

Citizen Science Manager
[email protected]
255 Aragon Ave, Third Floor
Coral Gables 33134

This program was initially called the S.A.R.A.H. Initiative. If you would like to learn more, please visit the button below.


Research Project Application

Are you looking to apply for a research project? The International SeaKeepers Society has been involved in assisting significant marine research and ocean conservation efforts through the DISCOVERY Yacht Program since 2014. We are seeking dedicated researchers to provide free vessel support to gather and conduct fieldwork. For each expedition, a scientist is paired with a vessel that can meet the research expedition’s needs, including location, itinerary, and vessel specifications as outlined in the research proposal. To submit a proposal on your next expedition needs, complete the application below.