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2007 Funded Pilot Projects
Hydrodynamics and Transport Pathways for Fecal Microbial Populations in a Salt Marsh and Barrier Beach System
PI: David Ralston (WHOI, Dept of Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering)
BMAA, a cyanobacterial neurotoxin, in marine food webs: a pilot projectPI(s): Carl Lamborg, Mak Saito, Paul Drevnick (WHOI, Dept. of Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry)
ß-methylamino-L-alanine (BMAA) is a neurotoxic amino acid produced by cyanobacteria. High concentrations of BMAA in human brain tissue have been linked to neurodegenerative diseases (ALS, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s) in Guam and Canada. The source of BMAA in Guam is cyanobacteria in the roots of cycad plants and biomagnification through a unique food web. The source of BMAA in Canada is unknown. A recent study, however, reported that many marine cyanobacteria also produce BMAA. Cyanobacteria are ubiquitous in the ocean and especially abundant in coastal areas that have experienced harmful algal blooms, representing a potentially significant source of BMAA to marine food webs. Fish or shellfish that eat cyanobacteria or otherwise accumulate BMAA may thus pose a health risk to human consumers of seafood. We propose to address the most fundamental question concerning the distribution of BMAA in the temperate coastal ocean: Are BMAA concentrations in seafood high enough to be of concern for human health? We will examine fish and shellfish of commercial, recreational, and subsistence importance for BMAA concentrations. If we find BMAA concentrations that pose a human health risk, (i) this could form the basis of a human health risk assessment for BMAA and (ii) we will have preliminary data to generate a full proposal for further study.
Using signature tagged mutagenesis (STM) to investigate how pandemic Vibrio parahaemolyticus persists in the bacterioplankton and associates with epithelia in the marine environmentPI: Janelle Thompson (MIT, Dept of Civil and Environmental Engineering)
This study will estimate the costs-of-illness associated with human respiratory ailments that arise as the consequence of the aerosolization and coastal to inland transport of brevetoxins from blooms of the marine dinoflagellate, Karenia brevis, in the Gulf of Mexico. The research will develop models to link the occurrence of HAB events in the coastal-ocean with exposures to aerosolized brevetoxins. The researchers will compile datasets and develop models of illness rates that would permit historical estimates of these kinds of impacts and the simulation of future potential impacts. This is a proof-of-concept Pilot Project designed to develop an analytical framework that can be used on a larger scale, using more extensive datasets in the future. It is critical that we understand the costs of natural hazards such as HAB events for at least two reasons. First, the nature of the costs (their effect) and their incidence (who is affected and at what rate) will enable the characterization of feasible actions to mitigate the costs. Second, the scale of the costs will help resource managers, scientists, and the general public to gauge the levels of and need for potential mitigation.