WGPME includes scientists from many disciplines working with phytoplankton and other planktonic microbes, though focuses mainly on ecological, taxonomic and chemical aspects. As well as reviewing and advising on sampling methods and diversity issues, the group also carries out phytoplankton and microbial plankton sampling in the North Atlantic and adjacent seas, analysing time-series in relation to climate variability, eutrophication, and ocean acidification.
WGPME emerged in response to the long-recognized need within ICES to cover the lower trophic levels linkage between hydrography and zooplankton. As such, target organisms include viruses, prokaryotes from the Bacteria and Archaea domains, and single-celled photosynthetic, non-photosynthetic (microzooplankton) and mixotrophic eukaryotes.
The group is currently attended by some 20 scientists from more than 10 countries. Its tasks include examining microbial time-series sampling techniques, assessing changes in distributional patterns of phytoplankton and other microbial taxa with the aid of hydrographic models and new statistical tools, and preparing manuscripts based on current time-series data.
WGPME's website was established at the group's first meeting in 2010. Two years later, the first Phytoplankton and Microbial Plankton Status Report was published.