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PCM Projects

PCM HAB Fiscal Year 2011 Projects

Implementation of an Operational Model for Prediction of Alexandrium fundsyense Blooms in the Gulf of Maine

Institutions: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and North Carolina State University
Investigators: Dennis J. McGillicuddy (lead), Donald M. Anderson, Ruoying He
In-brief: This project will transition the research models of toxic A. fundyense blooms in the Gulf of Maine (GOM) to operational use at NOAA.

Alexandrium fundyense, the New England “red tide” organism, produces toxins that accumulate in shellfish.  To protect human health States conduct extensive monitoring in coastal areas where shellfish are harvested and close shellfish beds to harvesting when toxin levels reach a threshold level.  Large areas of the open Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank are closed to shellfish harvesting because monitoring is not possible.  Research funding from ECOHAB and MERHAB has led to the development of a research model that has been successful since 2006 at providing seasonal and weekly predictions of the severity and location of A. fundyense blooms to more than 150 managers, scientists and shellfish industry representatives.  Forecasts of bloom severity are based on an annual survey of seed-like cysts in bottom sediments of the Gulf of Maine and meteorological and hydrographic conditions prior to and during the bloom season.  Forecasts give managers and the shellfish industry early warning so they can take steps to minimize the public health and economic impacts.  Shellfish harvesting closures due to red tides in the Gulf of Maine are estimated to cost approximately $2,000,000/week in the State of Maine alone.

Objectives: This project will transition the research models of toxic A. fundyense blooms in the Gulf of Maine (GOM) to operational use at NOAA.  Partners include NOAA’s Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services (COOPs), Coastal Survey Development Lab (CSDL), and Center for Coastal Monitoring and Assessment (CCMA), academics, federal and state resource managers, industry and the regional Ocean Observing System, NERACOOS

Approach: In order to make this model operational, the project proposes the following approaches:

  1. Implement the model codes onto NCEP computers and test in hindcast mode
  2. Meet CO-OPS requirements for documentation and training;
  3. Acquire key data streams and identify future observational needs;
  4. Run the model routinely for pre-operational demonstration in 2013, 2014, and 2015;
  5. Link management data to the model, via a shellfish toxicity submodel;
  6. Review and revise forecast products with users;
  7. Codify criteria for skill assessment, and evaluate hindcast simulations 2005-2015;
  8. Establish a methodology for ensemble forecasting and sensitivity analysis;
  9. Implement mechanisms for continued improvement to the underlying models and products that are generated; and
  10. Conduct cruises to survey cyst abundance in bottom sediments of the Gulf of Maine as part of an effort to determine the minimum number of sampling locations necessary for making the HAB forecasts.

Expected results: Seasonal and weekly forecasts of Alexandrium blooms in the Gulf of Maine will be issued by NOAA every year prior to and during the spring and summer, when blooms are most likely to occur.  Such early warning will reduce the human health threat and economic impacts. 

Environmental Sample Processor (ESP) Development: Targeting Cost Reductions, Robustness and an Improved User Interface

Institutions: McLane Research Laboratories (lead), Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, Spyglass Biosecurity
Investigators: Ivory Engstrom (lead), Cheri Everlove, Yuki Honjo, Susumu Honjo, Donald M. Anderson, Christopher A. Scholin, Christopher Melancon
In-brief: The Environmental Sample Processor (ESP) is an automated sampling device capable of providing early warning of harmful algal blooms before they can endanger human lives and commerce, but is costly to build and operate.  This project will will re-engineer the ESP in order to make it more affordable, reliable, and usable to industry, coastal resource managers, and researchers.

The Environmental Sample Processor (ESP) is a fully automated, highly compact, miniature underwater genomic research laboratory based on an electromechanical (robotic), microfluidic system designed to collect discrete water samples, concentrate microorganisms or particles, and automate application of molecular probes in order to identify target microorganisms and gene products. Data generated are then available for remote retrieval and analysis in near real-time. Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), the developer of the ESP, has deployed ESPs that are producing reliable data. McLane Research Laboratories (MRL) produced the first commercial ESP, which was recently delivered to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) to be utilized directly in HAB detection and research. The ESP is a unique and revolutionary instrument with a proven ability to detect HAB cells and toxins and deliver those data to shore. This technology has the potential to dramatically alter the nature of HAB research and management in the U.S. and the world, but significant obstacles presently constrain the widespread acquisition and deployment of the current instrument, which is expensive (~$200K) and requires specialized knowledge and handling for deployment, operation, and maintenance. The overall objective of this proposal is therefore to modify the ESP hardware and software to make it a more affordable, reliable, versatile, and useable instrument that is accessible to a wide community of local, state and federal resource managers, the shellfish or fish-farming industries, and the scientific community. Specific project objectives are to: 1) Build a current model of ESP for testing purposes, quantify its robustness, and obtain measurable operational parameters for the instrument; 2) Make improvements to the current system design to increase reliability and serviceability; 3) Explore modifications that would reduce overall costs to the end user; and 4) Improve the user interface in order to reduce operator error and facilitate easier error recovery and manual operation. To aid our investigation we have three unfunded collaborators who have generously offered their support: Dr. Chris Scholin (MBARI) the inventor of the ESP, Dr. Don Anderson (WHOI) an expert on HABs and a current ESP user, and Chris Melancon (Spyglass Biosecurity). Anderson and Scholin will provide crucial input on operational aspects of the instrument and Melancon will offer input on assays, reagents and reagent delivery. A Transition Advisory Committee (TAC) comprised of managers, engineers, scientists, and ESP users will help to guide the project through frequent meetings and exchanges of information and ideas. With the improvements to the ESP proposed here, the instrument will become accessible to a far larger user group than is presently the case, greatly improving capabilities for monitoring and managing HABs in marine and freshwater systems and ultimately mitigating the economic and health impacts of these phenomena.

Biological Degradation of Microcystins: A First Step Towards Biofilters for High Efficiency Toxin Removal

Institutions: University of Tennessee (lead) and State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry
Investigators: Steven W. Wilhelm (lead) and Gregory L. Boyer
In-brief: This project will examine the feasibility of using local bacteria to destroy microcystins, a toxin produced by a freshwater cyanobacteria that can contaminate municipal water supplies.

Based on their findings, the project team will assess the infrastructure required for a microcystin bio-filter. Research over the last decade has demonstrated bacteria that co-occur in the environment with toxic cyanobacteria blooms have the ability to break down cyanobacterial toxins: sometimes using these toxins as sole carbon sources. The University of Tennessee has isolated such organisms from Lake Erie, and acquired the original Australian isolate to degrade microcystins. This proposal will identify new microcystin-degrading species and characterize their decomposition of microcystins, a class of cyanotoxins that have been detected annually in the Laurentian Great Lakes since 1995. Field samples will be collected from, western Lake Erie, embayments of Lake Ontario, and obtained from international locations via ongoing research programs (e.g., Lake Tai (aka Taihu) in eastern China). The rates of biological microcystin decomposition will be determined along with the identity of end products and factors constraining this process (temperature, inorganic nutrient availability). Biological characterizations (growth rate, growth efficiency, ability to use as sole carbon source vs. biological “doping” with stimulatory organic and inorganics, and genetic identity) will be coupled with chemical measurements of toxin and breakdown product concentrations. These are the essential first steps for development of a biological filter for toxin removal. Specific objectives of this proposal include: (1) Isolate microcystin-degrading bacteria from blooms in Lakes Erie, Ontario and Tai. (2) Identify bacteria (from 1) capable of using microcystins as a sole carbon source. (3) Characterize bacteria and their growth rates under different conditions of temperature, nutrients and available carbon. (4) Characterize degradation rates of microcystins under different physiological conditions. (5) Identify the degradation products formed by these bacteria, including estimates of toxicity. (6) Identifying a physical infrastructure (filter support, type, etc) that can be used in a bioreactor for the degradation of microcystins. (7) Identify and address the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirements for application of a biofilter to remove microcystins from an external body of water. The information on their rates of toxin degradation, byproducts and other metabolites produced by the degrading organism as well as microbial growth (both in lab or on the potential platform) will be used select a subset of bacteria for further study and testing in the bioreator. The endgoal of this phase I study is to develop and deploy a biological “digester” under “pilot plant” conditions, similar to those currently used for the removal of other persistent organic pollutants. This process is now constrained from moving forward due to the lack basic information on the growth of the organisms, process rates and the nature of the resulting end products. This effort is an essential first step for preparation of a scalable biological filtration system to mitigate and prevent microcystins from passing into water distribution systems. Potential end users include resource managers and water providers, but may also include aquaculture, recreational water body managers or agricultural providers. To help address the engineering and regulatory challenges for incorporation of this technology into existing water infrastructure, this project has established an advisory team that includes a representative from a large water engineering firm and NEPA experts to help guide the early development of the technology.

PCM HAB Fiscal Year 2010 Projects

Suppression of Alexandrium blooms by resuspension and burial of resting cysts

Institutions: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Investigators: Donald M. Anderson, David Ralston

Despite the serious and growing problems posed by harmful algal blooms (HABs) in the U.S., progress has been slow in the area of bloom suppression or control. Here we propose a study that may help to break this trend, as the strategy to be explored has the potential to be economical, environmentally benign, and effective. The approach would be applicable in locations where cyst or spore-forming HAB species bloom in relatively localized areas – i.e., where distinct "seedbeds" can be identified and where "point source" blooms occur. The concept is simple –resuspension of the top 10-20 cm of bottom sediments in those areas can result in the redistribution of cysts, with the vast majority being buried in layers below the sediment surface where they will not germinate due to anoxia. We envision a process in which bottom sediments in a cyst seedbed area are systematically re-suspended during an appropriate time of the year and an appropriate tide (to be determined during this project), leading to cyst burial. In effect, surface sediments in the area would be turned over in much the same manner that a farmer turns over the soil in his fields every year. The net result would be a significantly reduced inoculum size (6 to 30-fold) at the beginning of the bloom season, leading to shorter blooms, fewer toxic cells, fewer cysts deposited to start subsequent blooms, and potentially the disappearance of the HAB species if the control strategy is sustained.

The overall objective of this project is to investigate the potential of sediment resuspension as a bloom suppression strategy for Alexandrium fundyense, a model for cyst forming dinoflagellate species. A three-year project is proposed that will: 1) determine the extent to which Alexandrium cysts and cysts of other dinoflagellates in cores from different depositional environments are buried below surface sediments following resuspension; 2) measure the sinking rate of cysts in the resuspended material, the grain size distribution, the nutrients that are released, and the time required for complete settling; 3) conduct field trials using cyst emergence traps deployed in areas of natural sediments that have undergone controlled, re-suspension treatment; 4) examine the effect on the benthic community from the field resuspension activities; 5) use numerical modeling techniques to compare bloom development with natural cyst abundance versus reduced abundance levels following a large-scale resuspension event in the Nauset Marsh System; 6) explore sediment dispersal and deposition patterns using a sediment transport submodel to help define logistical parameters and the depositional footprint for eventual field trials; and 7) conduct a workshop with shellfish officers, shellfishermen, National Seashore officials, and other interested parties to discuss project results and the need for, and logistics of, follow-up studies, including a large-scale PCM demonstration project. As a Development Phase PCM project, this effort is designed to generate the data and understanding needed to determine whether this boom suppression strategy will significantly reduce Alexandrium population size with minimal environmental impacts. By working with sediment cores spanning a range of depositional environments, determining settling rates and other parameters needed for numerical modeling, conducting those modeling studies, studying benthic impacts, obtaining direct measurements of germination fluxes with and without sediment disturbance, and communicating these results to end users and stakeholders, this project will do what is necessary to determine if a Demonstration Phase pilot study is justified.

Characterization of an algicidal agent produced by Shewanella sp. IRI-160 and its impact on dinoflagellate physiology and microbial community dynamics

Institutions: University of Delaware
Investigators: Kathryn J. Coyne and Mark Warner

Bacteria are thought to regulate algal abundance in the environment, and several species of algicidal bacteria have been evaluated in laboratory experiments. Only a few studies, however, have examined the mechanism by which these bacteria mediate algal mortality, or the effect of algicidal bacteria on microbial population structure and function in natural community experiments. In previous ECOHAB-funded research at UD, Hare et al. (2004) described a bacterium, Shewanella sp. IRI-160, that specifically inhibited the growth of dinoflagellates. Ongoing research in Coyne’s laboratory has demonstrated that (i) direct contact is not required for algicidal activity, (ii) the algicidal agent is a small, temperature stabile, hydrophilic molecule, (iii) the algicidal agent affects cell motility and induces significant morphological changes and death in dinoflagellates, and (iv) the algicidal agent has no impact on the growth of other classes of phytoplankton. Preliminary results provide evidence that the algicidal agent may affect cell cycle progression and photophysiology in dinoflagellates and/or induce programmed cell death. The data suggest that this algicidal agent may be an effective tool for controlling dinoflagellate growth, precisely targeting these species without impacting other algal groups.

Rationale and management relevance: Dinoflagellate blooms in the mid-Atlantic region pose a serious threat to human health and marine life, yet there are no control measures in place for rapid response and mitigation of HAB dinoflagellate blooms in this region. The proposed project seeks to investigate the activity of the algicidal agent produced by Shewanella sp. IRI-160 and its impacts on dinoflagellates and other members of the microbial community. This project specifically addresses the objectives of PCM HAB by developing a biological agent that controls HABs and their impacts by eliminating or reducing levels of HAB organisms (dinoflagellates).

Scientific objectives and work to be completed: Using a suite of biochemical and physiological assays, molecular tools and biogeochemical methods, this project will (1) further characterize the activity of the algicidal agent produced by Shewanella sp. IRI-160 on dinoflagellate physiology and toxicity, (2) characterize the effect of the algicidal agent on microalgae in mixed culture experiments, and (3) evaluate the effect of the algicidal agent on microbial community structure and function in natural community experiments. To evaluate the effect of the algicidal agent on dinoflagellates, three hypotheses will be examined: (1) the algicidal agent induces a loss in photosynthetic function in dinoflagellates, (2) the algicidal agent inhibits cell cycle progression in dinoflagellates, and/or (3) the algicidal agent induces programmed cell death in dinoflagellates.

Outcomes and Outputs: Data generated from this project will stimulate new research as knowledge is gained about algicidal activity, cell death in dinoflagellates, and the direct and indirect effects of algicidal activity on the microbial community. Two graduate students will be supported by this project, who will make this research the subject of their theses. Outputs include publications and formal presentations at national and international conferences, as well as informal meetings with local groups of citizens. Outcomes include improved management knowledge that will aid in the development of control and mitigation strategies for harmful dinoflagellate blooms, and an assessment of potential environmental risks and benefits associated with algicidal applications. Communication between research and the management community will be facilitated by the participation of personnel from mid-Atlantic monitoring agencies as members of the Transition Advisory Committee.

Mitigating Microcystis in the Chesapeake (MMIC)

Institutions: University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Chesapeake Research Consortium; Department of Anthropology, University of Maryland,; Maryland Department of Natural Resources

Investigators: A.R. Place, H.A. Bowers, K.G. Sellner, M. Paolisso, B. Michael, C. Wazniak

Nutrient enrichment of the coastal zone is common to many nations globally, leading to eutrophic conditions often typified by blooms of harmful algae and cyanobacteria. The Chesapeake is no exception, with summer blooms of toxic and non-toxic strains of Microcystis aeruginosa documented for at least the last 50 years. Dense accumulations of some of the blooms are also accompanied by levels of the toxin microcystin-LR exceeding WHO standards, leading to beach closures, warnings for recreational use, domestic animal mortalities, and broad range of possible stakeholder and communities responses.

The proposed research will determine concentrations of local sediments and commercial clays that combined with the flocculating compound chitosan will be used to flocculate and sediment local M. aeruginosa populations. Using cultures of toxic and non-toxic populations, sediment and chitosan concentrations effective at population removal will be determined, for unicellular cultured populations representing pre-bloom conditions for the cyanobacterium in the field as well as field-collected colonies and aggregates brought into the laboratory. Quantitative real-time PCR methodology will be employed to ascertain removal of M. aeruginosa from the water column in both laboratory experiments and field application. Germination and growth of seeds of submersed aquatic plants added to the sediment+floc mixture will also be determined, as well as impacts of flocked populations on established plants. Benthic macrofauna impacts will be assessed through growth of an introduced cultured bivalve, Rangia cuneata. Potential fish responses to the sediment mixture as well as the flocked M. aeruginosa will also be estimated using representative taxa from pelagic and demersal habitats typical of the bloom areas; the potential affects of sediment of gills and respiration as well as ingestion of toxic or non-toxic flocked populations will be assessed. Nutrient and toxin fluxes in these systems and for the latter, in plant, invertebrate, and fish tissues, will be estimated as well. Using in-water detection and transmission of phycocyanin concentrations for bloom initiation, field experiments will also be conducted in all 3 years, using contained populations. Natural submersed aquatic plant and benthic macrofauna responses to mitigation will be compared to non-treated populations, including assessments of toxin concentration in exposed plants and animals; fish collected from bloom and non-bloom sites will be sacrificed for toxin analyses. Key informant and collaborative learning workshops will be used to assess stakeholder cultural understanding of blooms as well as the cultural and socioeconomic opportunities to involve stakeholders and communities in mitigation efforts.

PCM Projects Supported Through ECOHAB and MERHAB


Title: Domoic Acid Dip Stick Test Kit: A Rapid, Inexpensive, Sensitive Field Assay for Use by Resource Managers, Public Health Officials, Shellfish Harvesters and Citizens Monitoring Groups
Project Description/Accomplishments: The project builds on the accomplishments of prior MERHAB research, which successfully demonstrated a highly accurate and sensitive quantitative enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) for the HAB toxin, domoic acid. This laboratory-based assay has been adapted to a commercial format and kits are currently being tested by academic, tribal, and non-governmental organizations and state agencies on the U.S. West Coast. A peer reviewed manuscript describing technical aspects of the assay was published in the Journal of Shellfish Research. Building on the successful ELISA, the project developed an affordable semi-quantitative method (a “dip stick” test) for measuring domoic acid in field samples without expensive and specialized lab equipment or a need for extensive user training. Development and preliminary testing of a prototype test kit that provides relative concentrations of domoic acid was completed. The kit was demonstrated to managers and public health officials from California, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska in a series of trainings and field evaluations. Feedback is being incorporated to advance the test kit towards final commercialization. The target users for the assay include anyone who needs a real-time estimate of domoic acid concentrations including shellfish harvesters, aquaculturists, or citizen monitoring networks.
Investigators: W Litaker and P Tester (NOAA Center for Coastal Fisheries and Habitat Research, NC); V Trainer (NOAA Northwest Fisheries Science Center, WA); and T Stewart (Mercury Science Inc., NC)
Funding Program: MERHAB
Region: West Coast


Title: Engineering Upgrades and Field Trials of the Autonomous Microbial Genosensor
Project Description: This project builds on earlier ECOHAB work that used a molecular tag to detect Karenia brevis (Florida red tide) and developed an assay that could be used in an automated sensor deployed in the water. The goal of this project is to improve the automated sensor with engineering upgrades and to test the system with a series of field deployments. The outcome of this research will be a system capable of detecting and providing quantitative information on Karenia brevis populations in near real-time. The system will be targeted toward Karenia brevis but, with simple modification, should be able to target any HAB species.
Investigators: JH Paul, DP Fries, M Smith (University of South Florida, FL)
Funding Program: ECOHAB (NOAA CSCOR)
Region: Gulf of Mexico


Title: Rapid HAB detection instrument development and deployment
Project Description/Accomplishments: This project focuses on combining new molecular biology techniques with solid surfaces technologies to develop small, efficient instruments for use by water quality managers to rapidly and inexpensively detect harmful algal species. Specifically, it is focusing on the use of peptide nucleic acids (PNAs), which are synthetic DNA mimics that are highly specific and chemically stable (so they are good for field applications), as the probe in the detection system. Combined with a gold surface sensor unit, the system will be capable of direct detection of HAB cells (specifically the harmful alga, Alexandrium) in field samples and can, therefore, be more easily deployed on buoys or used in hand-held instruments. This technology will allow non-scientists to monitor coastal waters in a cost effective manner and permit early warning systems to be eventually deployed onto buoys.
To date, the project has demonstrated that solid surface technologies combined with PNA probes can be used for reliable detection of species of Alexandrium. Initial data has demonstrated that rapid (less than 1 minute) results are easily obtainable. Further, the probe layer can be regenerated on the sensor surface, allowing use multiple times and making this method economical in the long run. The project has also greatly advanced solid surface detection technologies by developing a means to stably attach PNA sequences to gold nanoparticles. The project is continuing with research focusing on defining minimum detection limits and refining a rapid RNA extraction protocol to test this method with pure cultures and field samples in partnership with the Maine Department of Marine Resources. Key private sector partners include Seattle Sensors and Nomadics.
Investigators: L Connell, R Smith, and A Bratcher (University of Maine, ME).
Funding Program: MERHAB
Region: Gulf of Maine

Title: Role of parasitism on HAB dynamics: Amoebophrya sp. ex Alexandrium tamarense
Project Description/Accomplishments: Overall, this research sought to further the fundamental understanding of this little-known group of parasitic organisms (Amoebophrya), and to investigate the role these parasites play in affecting HAB (specifically Alexandrium) population dynamics in the laboratory and field. The researchers first developed molecular probes specific to the parasite for easier detection of infected cells in the field. Field and mesocosm experiments illustrated that Alexandrium blooms in Salt Pond, MA, are impacted tremendously by these parasites. The findings underscore the necessity of considering parasitism in models of bloom dynamics to provide better estimates of HAB organism mortality. Further, the results will be important for assessing the efficacy and implications of this organism as a biological control agent against Alexandrium species.
Investigators: DW Coats, MR Sengco (Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, MD) and DM Anderson (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, MA).
Funding Program: ECOHAB (NOAA CSCOR)
Region: Multiple


Title: Economic impacts of HAB events and the value of scientific predictions
Project Description/Accomplishments: The main goal this research project was to develop a more complete understanding of the ways in which commercial shellfish harvesters, shellfish processors and customers, and government resource managers respond to HAB events in the Gulf of Maine in order to 1) develop a framework for estimating economic impacts from specific HAB events and 2) work toward demonstrating the value to particular economic sectors of scientific predictions of HAB events. As part of this work, researchers estimated the harvesting losses due to the historical 2005 New England red tide event to be at least $2.4 million in Maine and $18 million in Massachusetts (note these loss estimates do not account for indirect impacts). Researchers also developed a model for estimating the value of HAB predictions to shellfish fisheries, which indicated that the long term value of such predictions to Maine and Massachusetts fisheries alone could be as high as $11 million (however the full benefits of prediction are not captured in the current model). This research also identified that the ability to design more precise and selective closures is one of the most valuable features provided to managers by HAB predictions.
Investigators: P Hoagland, D Jin, HL Kite-Powell, A Solow (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, MA), G. Herrera (Bowdoin College, ME) and B Keafer (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, MA).
Investigators: ECOHAB (NOAA CSCOR)
Region: Gulf of Maine


Title: Dynamics and mechanisms of HAB dinoflagellate mortality by algicidal bacteria.
Project Description/Accomplishments: The primary objective of this project was to quantify the ability of algae-killing bacteria to influence the population dynamics of the red-tide forming dinoflagellate, Lingulodinium polyedrum. As part of this work, novel strains of algicidal bacteria were isolated that induced formation of temporary ‘resting cysts’ by Lingulodinium. Researchers also cultivated a common marine bacterium that killed Lingulodinium cultures via attachment and found evidence to indicate a direct role of this bacterium in Lingulodinium bloom decline in nature.
Investigators: PJS Franks and F Azam (Scripps Institution of Oceanography, CA).
Funding Program: ECOHAB (NOAA CSCOR)
Region: West Coast


Title: Control of harmful algal blooms using clays: phase II
Project Description/Accomplishments: Prior ECOHAB funded (NOAA Sea Grant and EPA, see below) studies researched clay flocculation, which directly removes algal cells from the water column by forming sinking aggregates, and identified it as a promising bloom control strategy. This project focused on Karenia brevis and aimed to fill gaps in the scientific knowledge needed to evaluate the utility of clay flocculation as a HAB management strategy. This research advanced the understanding of factors that affect HAB cell and toxin removal by clay and the impacts on water quality and the benthic environment. Further, this project tested for the first time in the U.S. the efficacy and impacts of clay flocculation in open waters during an actual Karenia brevis bloom. Results highlighted the sensitivity of the cell removal process to flow conditions and revealed challenges that will need to be considered for use of this technique in the field. Overall, results indicate that clay flocculation can be an effective bloom control method if used in a targeted way under the appropriate flow conditions and spatial scales.
Investigators: DM Anderson, MR Sengco (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, MA), RH Pierce, J Culter (Mote Marine Laboratory, FL), and VM Bricelj (National Research Council, Canada)
Funding Program: ECOHAB (NOAA CSCOR)

Title: Predictive models of the toxic dinoflagellate Alexandrium fundyense in the Gulf of Maine: quantitative evaluation, refinement, and transition to operational mode for coastal management
Project Description/Accomplishments: As a result of prior ECOHAB and MERHAB research, coupled physical-biological models of Alexandrium fundyense, also known as New England Red Tide, in the Gulf of Maine had matured to the point that it was feasible to assess their suitability and potential value in an operational context. This project evaluated of predictive skill of the models and refined them accordingly. Distribution of Alexandrium ‘resting cysts’ on the seafloor and wind patterns are two critical factors in cell distribution and toxicity of each year’s bloom. Further, exceptionally high river runoff can strengthen the buoyant river plumes and currents that transport Alexandrium cells down the coast. Further research (GOMTOX) has indicated that models are effective at both short-term predictions of bloom transport and seasonal predictions of large-scale bloom characteristics. The models have provided short-term predictions to managers in a test mode since 2005. In 2008, the first seasonal forecast accurately predicted a severe outbreak of Alexandrium weeks in advance. Currently, researchers are working with NOAA to transition this capability to an operational framework.
Investigators: DJ McGillicuddy Jr, DM Anderson, AR Solo (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, MA), DR Lynch (Dartmouth College, NH), DW Townsend (University of Maine, ME)
Funding Program: ECOHAB (NOAA CSCOR)
Region: Gulf of Maine


Title: Algicidal bacteria targeting Karenia brevis (formerly Gymnodinium breve): population dynamics and killing activity
Project Description/Accomplishments: In a previous ECOHAB project (NSF, see below), the researchers discovered algicidal bacteria active against the Florida red tide organism, Karenia brevis. In this project, the researchers evaluated the role of these bacteria in regulating bloom termination. They developed a molecular probe specific for Karenia brevis that, with the probes for the algicidal bacteria strains (developed previously), allowed detection in mixed field samples and advanced the state of the research in other ways because of the rapid screening capability. The researchers successfully detected the previously isolated strains of bacteria in multiple field samples suggesting they were a ubiquitous background component of the bacterial community in the region. The researchers also found some Karenia cells were resistant to the algicidal attack, and experiments suggested the resistance was provided by other bacteria. Finally, they were able to characterize the algicidal agent produced by the bacteria, which was important for future efforts to understand the mechanism of action of the algicide.
Investigators: GJ Doucette (NOAA Center for Coastal Environmental Health and Biomolecular Research, SC)
Funding Program: ECOHAB (NOAA CSCOR)
Region: Gulf of Mexico


Title: Exploring lytic and temperate viruses of Karenia brevis (formerly Gymnodinium breve) as a mechanism of controlling red tide blooms
Project Description/Accomplishments: The goal of this research project was to investigate viruses as a potential mechanism of red tide termination. Prior to this study, no viruses that infected Karenia brevis had been described. In the course of the study, researchers commonly found agents in water samples that caused K.brevis cells to lyse (burst). Viruses were observed in these cultures, but researchers were unable to determine if they infected K.brevis or if the lytic agent was viral or bacterial in nature, underscoring the need for bacteria-free cultures for investigating the role of viruses in bloom termination. The researchers did isolate seven bacteria that were capable of causing K.brevis mortality.
Investigators: JH Paul (University of South Florida, FL)
Funding Program: ECOHAB (NOAA CSCOR)
Region: Gulf of Mexico

PCM Projects Funded by Other ECOHAB Partners


Title: Economic effects of HABs on coastal communities and shellfish culture in Florida
Investigators: SL Larkin and CM Adams (University of Florida, FL)
Funding Program: ECOHAB (EPA)
Region: Gulf of Mexico

Title: Assessment of the potential for introduction of harmful algal bloom (HAB) species via shellfish transport
Investigators: SE Shumway (University of Connecticut, CT)
Funding Program: ECOHAB (EPA)
Region: Multiple


Title: A framework for estimating the economic impacts of Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) in the United States
Investigators: P Hoagland, D Jin, HL Kite-Powell (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, MA)
Funding Program: ECOHAB (NOAA National Sea Grant)
Region: Multiple

Title: The economic effects of Pfiesteria in the mid-Atlantic region.
Investigators: TC Haab (East Carolina University, NC), J Whitehead (East Carolina University, NC), D Lipton (University of Maryland, MD), J Kirkley (Virginia Institute of Marine Science, VA), and G Parsons (University of Delaware, DE).
Funding Program: ECOHAB (NOAA National Sea Grant)
Region: Mid-Atlantic

Title: Mitigation of fish-killing algal blooms using clay
Investigators:DM Anderson (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, MA) and J Rensel (Rensel Associates Aquatic Science Consultants, WA)
Funding Program: ECOHAB (NOAA National Sea Grant)
Region: West Coast


Title: Control of harmful algal blooms using clays
Investigators: DM Anderson (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, MA); R Pierce (Mote Marine Laboratory, FL); RM Greene M Lewis, P Chapman (USEPA Gulf Ecology Division, FL); M Bricelj (National Research Council, Canada).
Funding Program: ECOHAB (EPA)
Region: Gulf of Mexico and Mid-Atlantic


Title: Algicidal bacteria and the regulation of Gymnodinium breve blooms in the Gulf of Mexico
Investigators: GJ Doucette (Medical University of South Carolina, SC).
Funding Program: ECOHAB (NSF)
Region: Gulf of Mexico