This is FLAVI. FLAVI is a Flowthrough Light and Velocity Incubator, and she is great. We built FLAVI so that we could grow Macrocystis pyrifera meristems, on land, under very controlled light intensities and uni-directional water velocities.
Since M. pyrifera uses a mix of two carbon uptake strategies in seawater–they can passively take up CO2, or they can actively take up bicarbonate. Previous work has shown that high light and high flow velocities should increase bicarbonate use, whereas low light and low flow should result in kelp taking up mostly CO2.
FLAVI should allow us to incubate growing kelp meristems in these conditions for 2 weeks or more, enough time for the kelp to double its length. We can then sample this new tissue and measure its carbon stable isotope signature (a ratio of rare 13C to common 12C). If the kelp is truly using different carbon uptake strategies in different light/flow treatments, these stable isotope signatures should be very different. If they are different, these tissue signatures will be a great diagnostic tool for assessing carbon physiology in M. pyrifera and other kelps.
Unfortunately….the eastern Pacific ocean is WARM. TOO WARM. Way, WAY too warm–20˚C. The natural kelp populations in the Monterey Bay are hanging on, but vulnerable meristems just can’t seem to grow in FLAVI. We are waiting for a powerful chiller so that we can get the water back down to 15˚C. And then….we hope for exciting results!