New England coastal waters have long been impacted by Alexandrium, a species that causes paralytic shellfish poisoning.Other species have recently emerged in the Gulf of Maine, including Pseudo-nitzschia and Dinophysis, capable of producing toxins that can cause amnesic shellfish poisoning and diarrhetic shellfish poisoning syndromes. This project creates the HAB Observing Network – New England, aligning academic, industry, state, and federal scientists to deploy a fleet of sensors.
Why We Care
Until 2016, the single dominant harmful algal bloom (HAB) threat to New England coastal waters was the dinoflagellate Alexandrium catenella, a species that causes paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP). This has changed dramatically with the emergence of amnesic shellfish poisoning (ASP) and diarrhetic shellfish poisoning (DSP) syndromes, caused by blooms of Pseudo-nitzschia spp. and Dinophysis spp., respectively, as well as other fin- and shellfish killing species that don’t threaten human health but negatively impact aquaculture, fishing, and tourism industries. Managers continue to implement rigorous seasonal PSP monitoring but have struggled to develop effective monitoring and decision-making approaches for multiple new threats that span all seasons.
What Are We Doing
This project will create HABON-NE (HAB Observing Network – New England), a framework for aligned academic, industry, state, and federal scientists to deploy – adaptively and continually – a fleet of advanced sensors and sensor platforms. The project would dramatically improve HAB surveillance, help direct state biotoxin testing, and support resource management decision-making. A multi-institutional team of scientists will oversee year-round deployments of sensors and sensor platforms, relocating assets as necessary to meet changing seasonal threats and respond to unexpected ones. Data and analytical products will be shared as they are created through the WHOI HAB Hub (WHHub), an open source, containerized web server platform for region-scale integration and sharing of rich and diversely sourced HAB observations, model outputs, contextual data, and management actions. The project will also implement and extend a toxicity model that translates high frequency, in situ estimates of cell concentrations into estimates of PSP toxin loads in shellfish. This will include real-time reporting of toxicity estimates derived from sensor data as well as from the output of an existing NOAA forecast model of A. catenella cell concentrations in the Gulf of Maine. Whenever possible, toxin estimates will be reported with comparisons to state-reported levels at nearby shellfish monitoring stations. The WHHub will enable comparison of diverse data and model estimates from specific areas, time periods, and/or times of year. Resource managers and stakeholders will be engaged throughout the project to share observations, new capabilities, and to solicit input on upcoming deployments, event response actions, and WHHub development. At the project’s conclusion, the webserver, phytoplankton image libraries, classifiers and training sets, and data analysis pipelines will be shared via open source code and data repositories. Transfer of WHHub operation to the Northeast Regional Association for Ocean Observing Systems (NERACOOS) will also be explored and used as a mechanism for documenting code and sharing broadly with researchers and resource managers nationwide.
Dr. Michael Brosnhan of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) leads this project. Co-investigators are Drs. Donald Anderson (WHOI), Mindy Richlen (WHOI), Collin Roesler (Bowdoin College), Kate Hubbard (Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission), Greg Doucette (NOAA NCCOS), J. Ru Morrison (Northeastern Regional Association of Coastal Ocean Observing Systems), Rick Stumpf (NOAA NCCOS), and Yizhen Li (NOAA NCCOS).
The project is funded through the NCCOS Monitoring and Event Response for Harmful Algal Blooms (MERHAB) Program.