The objective of this work was to quantify the kinetic behavior of Dunaliella primolecta (D. primolecta) subjected to controlled fluid flow under laboratory conditions. In situ velocities of D. primolecta were quantified by micron-resolution particle image velocimetry and particle tracking velocimetry. Experiments were performed under a range of velocity gradients and corresponding energy dissipation levels at microscopic scales similar to the energy dissipation levels of natural aquatic ecosystems. An average swimming velocity of D. primolecta in a stagnant fluid was 41 µm/s without a preferential flow direction. In a moving fluid, the sample population velocities of D. primolecta follow a log-normal distribution. The variability of sample population velocities was maximal at the highest fluid flow velocity in the channel. Local fluid velocity gradients inhibited the accrual of D. primolecta by twofold 5 days after the initiation of the experiment in comparison to the non-moving fluid control experiment. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 2010;107: 65–75. © 2010 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.