Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs)

HABs Update 2016: There is a HAB of Karenia brevis off the coast of South Padre Island as of September 2016. K. brevis causes Neurotoxic Shellfish Poison in affected oysters, but state officials and researchers are working together to keep oyster harvests safe.

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K. brevis bloom, note the red discoloration of the water that is the accumulation of dinoflagellate cells.

Photocredit: Frank Shisler of Skydive SPI, Sept 11th, from 2000 ft.

 

I’m McKensie Daugherty, your host for On the Ocean. Have you ever been to the beach during a red tide in the Gulf of Mexico? Did you see reddish water, or did your eyes began to sting? That is the result of what’s known as a HAB (letters H-A-B), the acronym for Harmful Algal Bloom. A HAB is the name for a rapid increase of algae in a body of water. Such algal blooms are commonly known as “red tides”, but can be orange, yellow, or brown tides depending on the type of algae, and they are usually seasonal. HABs can be caused by many different factors, ranging from an excess of nutrients, slow-moving water, or winds and currents. Unfortunately, HABs can often cause damage to coastal ecosystems and economies. Bloom-forming algae not only discolor water, they can create dead zones, and, in some cases where species are highly toxic, HABs can lead to the deaths of fish and marine mammals. In the Gulf of Mexico, toxic species can also impact human health–from respiratory distress when beachgoers inhale airborne toxins, to devastating illness if contaminated shellfish are eaten. Shellfish poisoning is the most well-known effect of a HAB. As a result, many state department of health services and resource managers are responsible for monitoring programs for these toxic blooms. Researchers also contribute to this effort. Using specialized instruments, they make sure that HABs are well monitored, and that human populations are protected from toxic shellfish. Also, by addressing questions like “How do algae make toxin?”, and “What triggers a bloom?” scientists move closer to understanding these systems. By working together, researchers are able to help keep coastal communities safer and citizens healthier. This has been On the Ocean, a program made possible by the Department of Oceanography and a production of KAMU-FM on the campus of Texas A&M University in College Station. For more information and links, please go to ocean.tamu.edu and click On the Ocean.

 

More information and Links:

Contributing Professor: Dr. Lisa Campbell

http://ocean.tamu.edu/people/faculty/campbelllisa.html

To see plankton in Port Aransas:

http://toast.tamu.edu/IFCB7/

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Dinophysis ovum photo from Imaging FlowCytobot in Port Aransas, Tx.

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Karenia brevis photo from Imaging FlowCytobot

Both Dinophysis ovum and Karenia brevis are considered HABs.

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I’m McKensie Daugherty, your host for On the Ocean. Harmful Algal Blooms, also known as “HABs”, are caused by tiny plants in the ocean, known as phytoplankton. The term “phytoplankton” comes from the word “Phyto,” meaning “plant’, and the word “plankton,” meaning “drifting organisms”. There are more than 10,000 known species of oceanic phytoplankton, but only about 300 are known to cause blooms. Blooms occur when one species, of the many living in the water together, rapidly increases in number within a small region. Harmful Algal Blooms can cause many biological problems. HAB species produce toxins that can harm the fish, corals and other invertebrates, and can cause respiratory distress in mammals. The effects of HABs also cause many economic problems by negatively impacting shellfish harvesting, as well as tourism in the locations where HABs reach the shore. Toxic algal blooms can shut down beaches for discolored water, can result in smelly piles of dead fish, and present an overall danger to human health. This can ruin a tourism driven economy for weeks to months at a time. The toxins produced by HAB species include brevetoxins (which cause Neurotoxic Shellfish Poisoning), saxitoxins that cause paralytic shellfish poisoning, domoic acid that causes Amnesiac Shellfish Poisoning, okadaic acid that causes Diarrhetic Shellfish Poisoning, and ciguatoxins that cause Ciguaterra Fish poisoning. The shellfish ingest the toxic algae cells by filter feeding and concentrate the toxin inside their bodies. When humans ingest these shellfish, they get a large dose of the toxin, making it harmful since cooking the shellfish will not eliminate the toxin. Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, paralysis, amnesia, neurological effects, and sometimes death, depending on the toxin. For this reason, early warning of Harmful Algal Blooms in the Gulf of Mexico is essential to prevent human illness. This has been On the Ocean, a program made possible by the Department of Oceanography and a production of KAMU-FM on the campus of Texas A&M University in College Station. For more information and links, please go to ocean.tamu.edu and click On the Ocean.

More information and Links:

Contributing Professor: Dr. Lisa Campbell

http://ocean.tamu.edu/people/faculty/campbelllisa.html

To see plankton in Port Aransas:

http://toast.tamu.edu/IFCB7/

Dr. Darren Henrichs, Assistant Research Scientist

http://www.kiiitv.com/story/30039280/university-researchers-studying-red-tide-in-port-aransas-area

HABS 3 -Bloom!

I’m McKensie Daugherty, your host for On the Ocean. Harmful Algal Blooms , also known as “red tides”, in the Gulf of Mexico are predominantly caused by the algae species Karenia brevis.  Blooms of this toxin-producing alga occur almost annually in Florida, but less frequently along the Texas Gulf Coast. A rapid increase in the number of Karenia brevis in a region can cause discolored water, widespread death of fish, as well as respiratory distress and Neurotoxic Shellfish Poisoning in humans. Therefore, it is very important that fisheries and beachgoers are properly warned of these blooms, making their prediction for the Texas coast a critical facet of scientific research. Using historical data from over the past 20 years, researchers found that measurements of the intensity and duration of along-shore winds were correlated with occurrences of Karenia blooms. Specifically, the along-shore winds create what is known as downwelling conditions. Downwelling occurs when surface waters converge. In this case, convergence occurs when surface water is moved towards the coast and this pile up pushes the surface water downwards.  The convergence and consequent downwelling at the coast concentrates Karenia cells. The correlation of specific wind conditions and bloom occurrences allow researchers to accurately predict a Karenia bloom-and as predicted a bloom hit the coastal bend of Texas on September 13th 2015. It has caused widespread death of fish and a strong aerosol of brevetoxin, which has produced respiratory distress in some areas. This distress can be alleviated by going indoors and avoiding the areas affected. Texas Parks and Wildlife has updated their website on Red Tide Status to inform Texans of the areas affected and locations of fish kills. Shellfish in the areas affected by Karenia are monitored by the Department of State Health Services, which issues warnings, if necessary, to prevent Neurotoxic Shellfish Poisoning. This has been On the Ocean, a program made possible by the Department of Oceanography and a production of KAMU-FM on the campus of Texas A&M University in College Station. For more information and links, please go to ocean.tamu.edu and click On the Ocean.

 

More information and Links:

Contributing Professor: Dr. Lisa Campbell

http://ocean.tamu.edu/people/faculty/campbelllisa.html

To see plankton in Port Aransas:

http://toast.tamu.edu/IFCB7/

HAB Index: Dr. Kristen Thyng

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This index provides along-shore wind measurements, correlating to HAB years. Look for the blue dot, the position of it’s wind intensity matches the HAB year measurements. This is how researchers at Texas A&M University were able to predict a bloom was forming.

HABs -4 IFCB

I’m McKensie Daugherty, your host for On the Ocean. This month we have been discussing Harmful Algal Blooms (also known as HABs). Today we will discuss how scientists study these blooms, and how this will help us to understand these natural phenomena. Gathering data on algae, or phytoplankton, is a multifaceted approach for the scientists involved. Data from satellites can measure things like the water temperature, wind speed, currents and their directions, and light intensity at the areas where blooms are occurring. Buoys can provide data similar to this, in addition to water salinity. Together, these instruments can provide detailed data for the conditions during a HAB, and using this data over a several year scale, scientists can begin to hypothesize about the conditions necessary to cause and sustain a bloom for each species. By taking samples of ocean water at several locations to identify and count phytoplankton, scientists are able to determine how widespread a bloom is in the ocean. A more advanced technique is using the Imaging-Flow Cytobot, an instrument that takes a small sample of water and uses a camera to take pictures of each phytoplankton cell. Computer software then automatically identifies the species present in the sample. This technology is not only incredibly fast, but also allows automation of this process, enabling more samples to be examined each day. The Imaging FlowCytobot of Texas A&M University currently operates on the pier at the UT Marine Science Institute. When a sample has enough toxic algae cells to signal a developing bloom, it automatically sends an email to researchers at Texas A&M University, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and the Texas Department of State Health Services. This provides an early warning to state managers and they can begin testing shellfish for toxins. Overall, HABs present a real problem on the coasts, but by using continuous monitoring, researchers are able to help keep coastal populations safe. This has been On the Ocean, a program made possible by the Department of Oceanography and a production of KAMU-FM on the campus of Texas A&M University in College Station. For more information and links, please go to ocean.tamu.edu and click On the Ocean.

More information and Links:

Contributing Professor: Dr. Lisa Campbell

http://ocean.tamu.edu/people/faculty/campbelllisa.html

To see plankton in Port Aransas:

http://toast.tamu.edu/IFCB7/

 

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ImagingFlow Cytobot (IFCB) of Texas A&M University. It takes an ocean water sample every 20 minutes to check the water for harmful algae, and to record data about plankton community structure. It then sends the pictures to a server at Texas A&M.

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Pier Lab at UT Marine Science Institute. This is the location where the ImagingFlow Cytobot (IFCB) is deployed.