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Monitoring Texas Bays For Dangerous Algal Blooms

Monitoring Texas Bays For Dangerous Algal Blooms

Brachydinium_web.jpgPORT ARANSAS, Texas—A new electronic sentinel is on the lookout for dangerous algal blooms in Texas bays.

The new instrument, called the Imaging FlowCytobot, automatically takes images of and classifies species of phytoplankton in real-time. It heralds the development of a warning system for the presence of harmful algae, like those that cause red and brown tides.

The unique device has been deployed in Port Aransas waters by scientists from Texas A&M University in College Station, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and The University of Texas at Austin Marine Science Institute (MSI).

Strategic placement at MSI's pier allows the FlowCytobot to take continuous snapshots of phytoplankton entering the Port Aransas Channel, which connects Corpus Christi and Aransas Bays to the Gulf of Mexico. This provides for a novel view into the makeup of the phytoplankton population.

The study, led by Texas A&M Professor Lisa Campbell, Woods Hole scientists Rob Olsen and Heidi Socik with assistance from MSI Professor Ed Buskey, has already yielded significant results.

They recently detected the dinoflagellate Brachidinium in the Port Aransas channel. Brachidinium was previously thought of as a rare species existing only in tropical Pacific Ocean waters off the coast of Japan and in the Mediterranean Sea.

The project, "Automated Imaging and Classification System for Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) Detection" is funded by an award from The Cooperative Institute for Coastal and Estuarine Environmental Technology.

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