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Analytical Response Team

Analytical Response
Pelicans and other seabirds are susceptible to algal toxins concentrated in the fish they eat. NCCOS's Analytical Response Team figures out whether or not a large die-off of mammals, fish, or birds was caused by algae, and what that toxin is. (Photo credit: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Harmful algal blooms (HABs) are increasingly recognized for their negative impacts on coastal ecosystems around the world. The natural toxins produced by various species of marine phytoplankton are the most common cause of marine mortality events involving marine mammals, fish and seabirds, and are a threat to human health.

Confirmation of algal toxins has historically been elusive due to the complexity of toxin composition and challenges to quantifying the very low levels of toxins that can be lethal to marine wildlife. Managers of coastal resources need accurate information, and need it in time to make informed decisions involving shellfish harvest, life support for marine wildlife, beach closures and remedial actions.

The NOAA Analytical Response Team (ART) was established to provide a formal framework through which coastal managers may request immediate coordinated assistance during harmful algal blooms and related health incidents. ART acts as one of the primary responders to HABs and associated mortality events, providing rapid and accurate identification of harmful algae and their associated toxins. This identification and analytical capability provides support for management agencies that can then make timely and informed decisions impacting stakeholders involved in coastal wildlife, human health and commerce.

ART is designed on the principals of a sense-and-respond unit. The team is comprised of early event listeners, a multidisciplinary team of event assessors from diverse scientific backgrounds, and a team leader responsible of designing an event-specific solution.

Key to the success of the team is that the response is based upon the unique expertise and experience of each individual rather than a pre-designed response, and that all team members work together on a daily basis in a mission-based Program. This approach represents a revolutionary design in business in which "business is an adaptive system for responding to unanticipated requests in unpredictable environment".