The University of Toledo is part of a regional team of scientists awarded a $408,371 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to test a new, compact, lightweight, hand-held tool that rapidly measures algal bloom toxin levels and to integrate the device with current monitoring systems.
The three-year grant is one of 12 totaling $10.2 million that NOAA announced it is allocating across the country to protect marine resources, public health and coastal economies from exposure to harmful algal blooms (HABs).“Through the National Centers for Ocean Science, NOAA is funding the latest scientific research to support environmental managers trying to cope with increasing and recurring toxic algae that continue to affect environmental and human health and coastal economies,” said Dr. Steven Thur, director of NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science. “Improved understanding of these coastal HAB threats will lead to better bloom observation and prediction, and help to mitigate effects along the U.S. coast.”
Dr. Tom Bridgeman, director of the UToledo Lake Erie Center and professor of ecology, said the device could provide water treatment plant managers, beach managers and others along Lake Erie and around the world with rapid measurements of algal toxins in order to make timely decisions about treating water or beach use during the algal bloom season.
“If the new technology proves to be reliable, it would provide a significant advance in public safety,” Bridgeman said. “Instead of sending a water sample off to a laboratory and waiting a few days for an answer, a beach manager, charter captain or water treatment professional could use the device to get an accurate measurement of toxin levels right on the spot.
“An additional advantage is that no special skills or training are needed to use the device. This project is about testing the device against the current standard lab methods of measuring toxin, determining whether non-experts can produce reliable measurements with it, and then getting it into the hands of people who can make the best use of it.”
UToledo’s partners in the grant include Bowling Green State University, Ohio State University, University of Michigan Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research, LimnoTech Inc., MBIO Diagnostics Inc., NOAA and National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science.
According to the award, the project, which has a total anticipated funding of $876,843, will pilot use of a commercially available, rapid, portable system capable of quantitative detection of cyanobacterial toxins, cylindrospermopsins and microcystins. This system will be integrated into existing monitoring programs that engage recreational beach managers, water treatment plant operators, charter boat captains and state environmental scientists. The researchers will analyze and determine the system’s accuracy.