Current Methods and Technology for the Detection and Potential Forecasting of Harmful Algal Blooms

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.S. Marine Biology

First Advisor

Scott Schatz

Second Advisor

Donald McCorquodale


Over the past few decades the global occurrence of Harmful Algal Blooms (HAB) has increased dramatically. Harmful Algal Blooms are a biological event during which particular toxin producing dinoflagellate phytoplankton undergo rapid exponential growth that results in high population densities within a local region. The outcome of HAB include fish kills, and the accumulation and storage of toxic products in the tissues of phytoplankton grazers

The most common dinoflagellate species involved in HAB include Gymnodinium sp. and Alexandrium sp. The consequences of the HAB involving these organisms can lead to a long-term deleterious economic impact for the affected regions because the depletion of the natural fish stocks can cause governmental regulators to close fisheries for prolonged periods of time. Ingested toxins may be incorporated into the tissues of fish and shellfish leading to a variety of illnesses when consumed at higher trophic levels along the food chain.

Long-term observable degradative effects of HAB include changes in coastal plant life and near-shore ecosystem disruptions. During this time the level of public awareness typically increases which can lead to increase in funding for research on HAB. Because of the confluence of increased incidence of HAB, increased public awareness, and an increase in financial support for HAB research, new monitoring mechanisms have been employed and new predictive HAB models have been developed.

Utilizing newly developed technology, HAB researchers have investigated a number of new methods to collect data and support the development of these predictive 4 models. In this paper I discuss the causative organisms of HAB, the methods being utilized to predict and detect HAB and the biologic and economic consequences of HAB.

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