UOG biology student discovers new algae species in Micronesia

This potentially new diatom species discovered by University of Guam student Britney Sison will be named Nitzschia biseriata in reference to the double rows of pores on its body. The species will be officially considered new once a paper about the diatom has been peer-reviewed and approved for publication. Photo courtesy of Guam NSF EPSCoR and Christopher Lobban

Britney Sison, an undergraduate biology and chemistry student at the University of Guam, has discovered five potentially undocumented diatoms in mud samples from the Micronesian Islands of Palau, Yap, Pohnpei, and the Marshall Islands.

Her discoveries are in addition to two potentially new diatom species found earlier this year by UOG student Gabriella Prelosky.

Britney Sison

Diatoms are single-celled algae found in oceans, lakes, and rivers. They are primary producers in the food chain as photosynthetic organisms, according to UOG Professor Emeritus of Biology Christopher Lobban, who mentors Sison and Prelosky and runs the Microscopy Teaching & Research Laboratory on the UOG campus.

Sison’s discovery happened during her research fellowship under the NSF INCLUDES: SEAS Islands Alliance program, a $10 million initiative funded by the National Science Foundation to broaden participation in STEM fields of students in U.S. territories and affiliated islands.

She presented on her findings at the 26th International Diatom Symposium, which brought together hundreds of diatom researchers from around the world for the virtual event from Aug. 23 to 25 out of Yamagata, Japan. Her presentation, titled “New species of conopeate Nitzschia in the Pacific Islands,” won third place in the student poster competit