If the Census Bureau thinks it has its hands full counting Americans, imagine what scientists are up against in trying to tally every living thing in the ocean, including microbes so small they seem invisible.
And just try to get them to mail back a form.
The worldwide Census of Marine Life has four field projects focusing on hard-to-see sea life such as tiny microbes, zooplankton, larvae and burrowers in the sea bed.
Tiny as individuals, these life forms are massive as groups and provide food that helps underpin better-known living things.
"Scientists are discovering and describing an astonishing new world of marine microbial diversity and abundance, distribution patterns and seasonal changes," said Mitch Sogin of the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass., leader of the International Census of Marine Microbes.
The Census of Marine Life, which is scheduled to be reported Oct. 4 in London, has involved more than 2,000 scientists from more than 80 nations.