PCM Projects Supported Through ECOHAB and MERHAB

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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 againstAlexandrium 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 onKarenia 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 (formerlyGymnodinium 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.brevismortality. 
Investigators: JH Paul (University of South Florida, FL)
Funding Program: ECOHAB (NOAA CSCOR)
Region: Gulf of Mexico

Last updated: July 11, 2016