An NCCOS-funded research team led by Dr. Donald Anderson, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), has deployed an autonomous ocean sensor, called the Environmental Sample Processor (ESP) in the Atlantic Ocean off Portsmouth, New Hampshire for monitoring and prediction of New England Red Tides. A key project goal this year is to maintain ESP coverage in the Western Gulf of Maine spanning the 2013 Alexandrium bloom season for the first time ever. The team will replace the ESP it just deployed with another instrument in late May. The second ESP will remain in place through early July or until bloom activity ends. ESPs will also feature a new toxin sensor developed in a complementary internal NCCOS effort to measure PSP toxin levels. This capability adds to the ESP's function for measuring Alexandrium cell concentrations demonstrated successfully during a short 2012 test deployment. A nitrate sensor deployed with the ESP will help document nutrient levels before and during blooms.
This year the team will use ESP cell and toxin data to regularly update over 150 state and federal managers and scientists who work to respond to toxic Alexandrium blooms. Data summaries will be added to the 'Current Status' page of the WHOI Northeast PSP website.
The team is demonstrating how ESPs, as part of an observing network, can measure offshore levels of algae and toxin to give a real-time picture of rapidly changing populations and their toxicity. Previously that was available only by going to sea in ships. The effort has real potential to transform oceanography, enhance the Northeastern Regional Association of Coastal Ocean Observing System, and enable NOAA to make accurate operational HAB forecasts. This project is funded by the NOAA Monitoring and Event Response for Harmful Algal Blooms (MERHAB) project.