Saxitoxin detection aboard ESP

  • ESP out of its Shell
    ESP out of its Shell  Dr. Juliette Smith working with an Environmental Sample Processor (ESP), an automated biosensor which can be used to remotely monitor harmful algal blooms (HABs) and their toxins. This is one of the five ESPs housed in the lab of Don Anderson at WHOI.  Photo by M.Tong
  • ESP Deployment
    ESP Deployment  Deployment of an Environmental Sample Processor with the new saxitoxin assay in the Gulf of Maine in Spring 2013.  Photo courtesy of D.Anderson
  • Ground-truthing the New Assay
    Ground-truthing the New Assay  Filtering of concentrated phytoplankton samples using a vacuum manifold aboard the R/V Tioga in the Gulf of Maine. Phytoplankton samples were extracted and analyzed using HPLC-ox-FLD to determine the concentration and profile of saxitoxins. Values were used to validate the in situ results produced by the moored ESP.  Photo by J. Smith
  • Pumping Plankton
    Pumping Plankton  Seawater was pumped from 1m into a 20-um plankton net for 30 - 75 minutes to collect enough phytoplankton (Alexandrium) for toxin quantification. Saxitoxin concentrations were used to ground-truth the ESP's new, on-board saxitoxin assay.  Photo by J. Smith
  • ESP Rockstars
    ESP Rockstars  Bruce Keafer (WHOI) and Roman Marin III (MBARI) work to prepare the Environmental Sample Processor (ESP) and surface mooring buoy for well-testing in preparation for field deployment. Next we fired off a HAB and STX assay to text the respective assays aboard the ESP.  Photo by J. Smith
  • Saxitoxin Visualized
    Saxitoxin Visualized  Image of chemiluminescence on ESP array - spot intensity is representative of the concentration of saxitoxins present in an in situ measurement by the new ELISA (enzyme linked immunosorbent assay) aboard the ESP. Greg Doucette's lab, with NOAA/NOS, developed the ELISA along with collaborators.  Photo by ESPdon, Courtesy of D.Anderson
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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.