Advancing Harmful Algal Bloom Monitoring Efforts on the Texas Coast to Protect Human Health and Coastal Economies

Principal Investigator

A harmful algal bloom (HAB) is broadly defined as the proliferation of a phytoplankton species that results in harmful effects on marine life, ecosystems, and/or human health. Some HABs produce toxins that can: 1) cause mortality of marine life, 2) bioaccumulate in shellfish and cause negative health impacts in humans upon consumption, and/or 3) become aerosolized and cause negative human health impacts (in the case of the Gulf of Mexico “red tide” dinoflagellate, Karenia brevis). Not all HAB species are toxic however, as some cause marine life mortalities through depletion of oxygen in the water column, while others are simply a poor food source for fish and shellfish. Regardless of the mode of harmful action, marine HABs have been responsible for devastating negative impacts on local and regional economies.

This project will increase actionable estuarine HAB monitoring on the Texas coast by deploying near real-time HAB detection technology, Imaging FlowCytobots, at two high priority sites: Baffin Bay and the confluence of Port Bay/Copano Bay, and will also develop a Texas Coast HAB monitoring plan that would guide implementation of a larger scale coastwide HAB monitoring program.