Title: Development of real-time instrumentation for the robotic detection of Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP) toxins in Massachusetts coastal waters
Investigators: Don Anderson (WHOI), Juliette Smith (VIMS), Greg Doucette (NOAA/NOS)
Funding Source: MIT Sea Grant
Abstract: The coastal waters of New England are subject to recurrent outbreaks of Paralytic Shellfish Poisonings (PSP) caused by the toxic dinoflagellate A. fundyense. PSP is the most widespread of all HAB poisoning syndromes. Economic impacts are significant – i.e., the losses from a single red tide in 2005 cost the Massachusetts Shellfish Industry $50M. To aid in the elucidation of bloom dynamics of harmful algal bloom (HAB) species, including the toxic dinoflagellate Alexandrium fundyense, a novel instrument known as the Environmental Sample Processor (ESP) was developed to quantitate real-time in situ cell abundances. While this was a necessary first step, the instrumentation needs to be adapted to quantify Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP) toxins in phytoplankton if the goal of a safe and sustainable seafood supply is to be realized in MA coastal waters. This project, therefore, proposes to (1) develop an ESP module that will robotically detect in situ concentrations of PSP toxins in phytoplankton in real time; and (2) field test the instrument in the Nauset Marsh System (NMS), Cape Cod, MA. During field testing of the ESP, we propose to conduct a field experiment that will utilize current shellfish monitoring programs to (3) determine the relationship between shellfish toxicity and ambient A. fundyense cell abundances and toxin content in the NMS.