Meet Gabrielle Corradino, National Geographic Adventurer and Marine Plankton Scientist

She looks into the invisible world of plankton at the most beautiful creatures ever.

Gabrielle Corradino on board with her plankton trawl net. #OceaninaDropCalifornia x #BlueMind

Gabrielle Corradino on board the R/V Brown for the GOMECC research, with her plankton tow net. #OceaninaDropCalifornia x #BlueMind

Where were you born, and where do you live now?

I was born in New Haven Connecticut and I currently live in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Where are your favourite waters?

Belize and Hawaii have the best waters that I have been in for diving. The ecosystems are incredible!

There is a soft spot in my heart for waters in Newport, Rhode Island and New Haven, Connecticut because of where I grew up.

Would you please share a favourite water memory or two?

Growing up my parents had a pool and that was my introduction to swimming. I spent hours each day in the pool pretending I was a deep-sea diver. Every summer we would travel to the beach and they would encourage me to explore my natural environment.

How do you incorporate nature in your life, and the way you make a living?

As a marine scientist I incorporate nature into what I research. I study plankton ecology and these tiny organisms help sustain the life in the ocean. Each time I am looking into the microscope or am in the field collecting samples, I am often humbled by the magnificence of the ocean and all of its organisms.

Why do you do what you do?

I am a marine scientist because I am interested in the behavioral ecology of organisms. Understanding why organisms behave a certain way drives my curiosity and research questions.


For example, I study some of the smallest plankton, called nanoflagellates. How is is possible that these organisms drive the oceanic bacterial populations? How do they interact with the larger phytoplankton? Does their behavior change seasonally? These are the types of ecological questions that keep me up at night!

This is one of my favorite shots! It shows a nanoflagellate attached to a diatom chain. It has been stated that 90-92% of diatoms in the upper water column have nanoflagellates attached. It is a pretty incredible relationship between the two organisms.

This is one of my favorite shots! It shows a nanoflagellate attached to a diatom chain. It has been stated that 90-92% of diatoms in the upper water column have nanoflagellates attached. It is a pretty incredible relationship between the two organisms. Gabrielle Corradino, for #OceaninaDropCalifornia x #BlueMind

What happens when you don’t have time for nature?

If I do not make it outside or into the field for more than two or three days in a row, I often will start to feel detached and stressed. Nature is a calming force that helps to put my job, school and stress into perspective.

Could you please share a time or experience where you felt lost in the crowd, like a tiny, insignificant drop?

Often when I submit proposals or grants, I feel like I do not stand out and that I am simply one of many. My research is based on organisms that most people have never heard of and when I try and explain the importance of my work, sometimes I am left feeling quite small and insignificant in the larger pool of scientists.

How did you turn that around, and how did you get back to feeling like you were a whole Ocean in a Drop?

When I began to collaborate with other scientists and talk to my advisor, I started to see the larger picture of my research. Making the connection from plankton to the ocean carbon cycling helped put my research into a perspective and highlighted its importance.

Gabrielle Corradino, explorer of hidden worlds in vast oceans. #OceaninaDropCalifornia x #BlueMind

Gabrielle Corradino, explorer of hidden worlds in vast oceans. Here she is processing her plankton samples by filtration, on the lab on board the R/V Brown for the GOMECC research. #OceaninaDropCalifornia x #BlueMind

Is there anything bothering you about the whole eco /green/conservation thing at the moment?

It upsets me that people do not take their impact on the environment seriously. Everyday people make a choice with their voice and they do it with how they spend their money. Purchasing one-time use plastics and poor recycling habits is the death of the ocean ecosystem. My hope that is the everyone starts to understand the lasting impact of plastics in the oceans.

What do you find is working? And what change do you hope to see in this lifetime?

Before I started graduate school I was a science teacher and I loved to work with students on environmental conservation projects. Talking and teaching students on the ground-level does have a powerful impact. It is really wonderful to see middle school and high school students carrying out gardening and recycling programs at their school.

Is there anything you would love to tell the you from ten years ago?

  1. Do not be afraid to apply and take opportunities outside of research.
  2. Apply for more jobs that require travel.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Art has played a large role in how I approach the communication for my research. I think it is important for scientists to remember that for the public to understand their research, you have to make it approachable. I started to do this through microscope images of plankton that I work with. I post the images on Instagram and aim to make the tiny planktonic world visible to the world.  


Any suggestions for the next drop?

Nope! This is great!

Where can we learn more about you, your work and see some gorgeous pictures of plankton?

I am a National Geographic Explorer

Instagram: MarchofthePlankton

This is a freshwater shot of a ciliate and some cyanobacteria.

This is a freshwater shot of a ciliate and some cyanobacteria. Gabrielle Corradino, for #OceaninaDropCalifornia x #BlueMind

28 May to 4 September 2018: #100DaysofBlue

Ocean in a Drop California x Blue Mind

Ocean in a Drop : A series of illustrations by Candace Loy, with each water drop shape filled with sea life and the life that water supports, of a country or state (e.g., California). The bigger vision is to use portions of profits from the sale of beautiful and unique merchandise, to contribute to local marine, freshwater education, research and conservation initiatives in the region depicted by the drop.

#BlueMind is a movement started by Dr Wallace J Nichols, who is also a successful turtle conservation researcher. He has done collaborations with many people including neuroscientists, to show the positive effects of being around water, on the brain.

Not only is there an increasing number of organizations supporting people in overcoming PTSD and other debilitating circumstances through water-based therapy like surfing and swimming; his message is to encourage as many people to reconnect and strengthen their bonds with water, and be inspired as a result to take care of waters across our blue planet.

Combining neuroscience, honouring emotions and using it to create more beneficial solutions for our planet and the life she supports. Here are some of his talks on neuroconservation.

Get a free copy of Ocean in a Drop California coloring sheet, share it with your students, colleagues, friends, and family. Be the one to add colour and creativity to their day 🙂

#OceaninaDrop + share your favourite water memory to inspire others, on Instagram and Facebook, and get featured xo