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Sandia research to focus on early detection of harmful algal blooms

Sandia National Laboratories researchers Todd Lane and Victoria VanderNoot have been awarded a research grant to develop a technology that can successfully detect deadly toxins from harmful algal blooms (HABs). The funding is provided by the Cooperative Institute for Coastal and Estuarine Environmental Technology (CICEET), a partnership of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the University of New Hampshire.

Lane and VanderNoot, a molecular biologist and an analytical chemist, respectively, are both in the Biosystems Research department at Sandia's Livermore, Calif., site. In addressing the HAB problem, they will employ laser-induced fluorescence and other separation methods inherent in Sandia's ┬ÁChemLab(tm) ("Micro" ChemLab) technology. Along with a small team of Sandia colleagues and external collaborators, they have commenced with the research, which could lead to longer-term funding after the initial "proof of principle" work has been completed.

Sandia is a National Nuclear Security Administration laboratory.

HABs: devastating for coastal ecology and fisheries

Harmful algal blooms are widely acknowledged to be a severe coastal resource management issue, adversely impacting virtually every coastal region. Current methods for detecting the poisonous toxins characteristic of the blooms are cumbersome, require either expensive reagents or animal testing, or are unable to quantify toxins - critical information for managing shellfish beds. The technologies under development at Sandia would eliminate these problems.

"Today's standard detection methods, frankly, are too slow and labor-intensive," said Lane. "By the time the process is complete, it's too late: the shellfish beds are already toxic." The ability to quickly sample organisms low on the food chain, Lane said, can provide an early warning system to help protect communities from exposure to toxins.

Most species of algae are no
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Source:DOE/Sandia National Laboratories


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