An NCCOS scientist visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute on Nov. 6 -13 to perform critical calibration of NCCOS-developed domoic acid sensors on two robotic Environmental Sample Processors (ESPs). Results of these calibrations and the analysis of controlled test samples will allow researchers to accurately quantify harmful algal bloom toxin data generated during two ESP deployments conducted earlier this year in southern California (March/April) and in Monterey Bay (September/October).
More than 55 domoic acid tests were performed autonomously on subsurface ESPs during these two deployments, along with gene-probe based tests for domoic acid -producing species of the diatom Pseudo-nitzschia. Since domoic acid levels can vary with environmental conditions, quantification of both algal cells and their toxin levels provides a more complete, near -real time picture of changes in bloom toxicity. Domoic acid is a potent neurotoxin that accumulates in fish and shellfish, has caused bird and sea lion mortalities, and is a threat to human health.
Domoic acid data, along with physical and chemical oceanographic data produced by sensors on other platforms (e.g., gliders and autonomous underwater vehicles) as part of a larger ocean observing network, can be incorporated into predictive models that will help coastal managers track and forecast the potential impacts of toxic Pseudo-nitzschia blooms.