A new robotic sensor deployed by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in Gulf of Maine coastal waters may transform the way red tides or harmful algal blooms (HABs) are monitored and managed in New England. The instrument was launched at the end of last month, and a second such system will be deployed later this spring.
The results will add critical data to weekly real-time forecasts of New England red tide this year distributed to more than 150 coastal resource and fisheries managers in six states as well as federal agencies such as NOAA, the FDA and the EPA. Researchers also plan to add data from the sensor to regular updates provided on the "Current Status" page of the Northeast PSP website.
"This deployment is a critical step towards our long-term dream of having a network of instruments moored along the coast of the Gulf of Maine, routinely providing data on the distribution and abundance of HAB cells and toxins. The technology will greatly enhance management capabilities and protection of public health in the region," says Don Anderson, WHOI senior scientist and the project's principal investigator.
The two sensors, known as Environmental Sample Processors (ESPs), are molecular biology labs packed inside canisters the size of kitchen garbage cans. In the Gulf of Maine, the ESPs are mounted to ocean buoys and will detect and estimate concentrations of two algal species that cause HABs or "red tides" and one of the potentially fatal toxins they produce.
The first, Alexandrium fundyense, a single-celled algae, produces toxins that cause paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP). The second organism, Pseudo-nitzschia, is a diatom responsible for amnesic shellfish poisoning, or ASP The data from the instruments will be transmitted to the shore in real time.
One instrument was tested off the coast of Portsmouth, NH, in 2011 and 2012. This year will see the first sustained deployments of the technology spanning the
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Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution