Microthalassia Consultants is an environmental consulting company based on the west coast of Canada. We specialize in marine plankton, especially harmful algae species that impact the marine environment.Our phytoplankton and zooplankton experts offer fast, reliable analysis, whether keeping an eye on the plankton year-round or providing a one-time sample analysis. Microthalassia’s people have been setting-up and running plankton monitoring programs for over 20 years. We a proven track record with BC aquaculture companies, federal and provincial government bodies, research institutes, and international companies. Our highly skilled technicians know that timing is critical. They are able to identify plankton species quickly, so that our clients can get the information they need as fast as possible. As well as offering monitoring and plankton analysis services, we also offer online and on-site training in phytoplankton sampling, sample analysis, and identification in Spanish and English.
Nicky Haigh – CEO and Senior Phytoplankton Analyst
Nicky is the CEO of Microthalassia, which she incorporated in 2010 (previously Nixy Consulting). Nicky has over 20 years of experience in plankton identification and monitoring. She graduated in 1994 from UBC after achieving her BSc (Hons) in Biology and Oceanography, doing her Honor’s thesis on the toxic dinoflagellate Gymnodinium galatheanum (Karlodinium micrum) under the supervision of FJR ‘Max’ Taylor. She worked for four years on a salmon farm in Kyuquot Sound, on the north-west side of Vancouver Island; there she developed and ran a plankton monitoring program for the company and also learnt the ins and outs of salmon aquaculture. In 1999 Nicky was approached by JNC ‘Ian’ Whyte of DFO to aid in the start-up of the Harmful Algae Monitoring Program (HAMP) with BC salmon farmers. She has been Program Manager and Senior Phytoplankton Analyst of HAMP since then, which has been run through Microthalassia / Nixy Consulting since 2004, when Ian Whyte retired from DFO. In order to help solidify her HAB knowledge, Nicky has completed the Certificate of Proficiency in Identification of Harmful Marine Microalgae from the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO at the University of Copenhagen. Nicky remains committed to the field of harmful algae in her role as the current Canadian delegate to the Harmful Algal Bloom section of the North Pacific Marine Science Organisation (PICES) and by being an active member of the International Society for the Study of Harmful Algae.
Tamara Brown – Lab Manager
Tamara graduated in 2015 from Vancouver Island University with a BSc. Hons in Fisheries and Aquaculture. She completed her undergraduate thesis on the diel migration of the fish killing algae, Heterosigma akashiwo. Since 2012, she has been working with Nicky Haigh at Microthalassia where she has been fueling her passion for phytoplankton and zooplankton. Outside of her work with Microthalassia, Tamara interned with Dr. Diana Varela at the University of Victoria’s Polar Phytoplankton Physiology Lab, studied marine biology in Arctic Norway, studied zooplankton taxonomy under Dr. Bill Pennell, and worked on oceanography and water quality projects with two ENGO’s in the Caribbean. Tamara is excited to be working for Microthalassia and to be involved in the world of plankton.
Devan Johnson – Plankton Analyst
Devan started working for Microthalassia in 2016 under the National Research Council of Canada’s (NRC) Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP). Devan’s NRC project studied the prevalence of Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning (ASP) producing diatom species, Pseudo-nitzschia, on the eastern side of Vancouver Island in the first six months of 2016. SheShe strengthened a passionate interest in genomics and molecular ecology via an internship at the Molecular Genetics Lab (MGL) at the Pacific Biological Station (PBS) with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO). Outside of her work for Microthalassia, Devan enjoys participating in bird banding workshops where she gets hands-on experience with birds.
Raquel Greiter Loerzer – Plankton Analyst
Raquel joined Microthalassia in 2017 funded by the National Research Council of Canada’s Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP). Raquel graduated in 2016 from Vancouver Island University (VIU) with a BSc in Biology with a specialization in aquatic and terrestrial ecology. She worked for Dr. Sarah Dudas at the Center for Shellfish Research (CSR) in 2015 and 2016 with funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Undergraduate Student Research Award (NSERC-USRA). She completed her undergraduate thesis on the recruitment of marine sessile macro-invertebrate non-indigenous species (NIS) in respect to a gradient of anthropogenic activity in across the British Columbian coast. With a growing interest in fish health, Raquel has returned to VIU and enrolled in the post-degree diploma in Fisheries and Aquaculture. Currently, she is interning at the Molecular Genetics Laboratory (MGL) at the Pacific Biological Station (PBS) with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO). Raquel hopes to expand her knowledge and immerse herself more in the world of plankton in the coming years.
phytoplankton and zooplankton species identification / taxonomy
plankton monitoring programs
monitoring of harmful algae blooms (HABs) and environmental parameters, especially as they affect phytoplankton
hands-on or online workshops for phytoplankton sampling, microscopic sample analysis, and identification - Check out the Microthalassia Learning Centre to learn more about our online courses
phytoplankton species imaging - Check out our Gallery to see images we have captured
most services are available in English and Spanish
Current and Past Projects
Harmful Algae Monitoring Program:
Microthalassia runs the Harmful Algae Monitoring Program (HAMP) for the BC salmon farming industry, to assist them in monitoring and managing the threats of harmful algal blooms. The program has been ongoing since 1999, and has a triple mandate of routine monitoring, assistance in times of harmful blooms, and education of farm personnel in on-site sampling and phytoplankton identification. HAMP currently involves Marine Harvest, Cermaq Canada, Grieg Seafoods, and Creative Salmon. See our HAMP page for more info.
Consultation and sample analysis for finfish aquaculture companies:
We offer consultation and sample analysis to several companies outside of British Columbia such as Open Blue Sea Farms (Panama), Huon Aquaculture (Australia), Tassal (Australia), Earth Ocean Farms (Mexico). We have also developed online course for regions outside of British Columbia such as the southwestern Pacific and the Pacific coast of Mexico.
Ongoing plankton monitoring projects:
We are in the third year of routine phytoplankton and zooplankton monitoring for the Salish Sea Marine Survival Project (Pacific Salmon Foundation) for Dr. Helen Gurney-Smith. We also conduct a phytoplankton monitoring program for the Hakai Institute and University of BC under Dr. Brian Hunt.
Research grants and projects:
As Nicky is the Canadian delegate to the North Pacific Marine Science Organization (PICES), we are regularly involved in research with academic and government institutions. Currently, we are training an intern funded by the National Research Council Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP) grant. In 2016, we used the same funding to conduct studies on Pseudo-nitzschia species on south-eastern Vancouver Island. In 2012, we collaborated with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) on the project “Isolation, culture, and genomic analysis of harmful algal species affecting aquaculture on the west coast of Canada and analysis of the Harmful Algae Monitoring Program historical database”. We have also worked on projects with the Capital Regional District (Victoria, BC), Island Sea Farms (Ganges, BC), Quinsam Hatchery (Campbell River, BC), and the University of Victoria (BC).