High Tech Tool to Aid in Pacific Northwest Toxin Detection

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NOAA and partners are expanding the use of an underwater robot using a NOAA-developed sensor that enables remote, automated measurements of toxins produced by harmful algal blooms (HABs), known to contaminate shellfish and poison humans that consume them. Already used in monitoring the dinoflagellate Alexandrium, the algae that causes toxic red tides in the Gulf of Maine, the robot will now be deployed in the Pacific Northwest to detect and identify the HAB species Pseudo-nitzschia australis.

The robot, called the Environmental Sample Processor (ESP), was deployed by the University of Washington on May 23, and will provide data on both Pseudo-nitzschia cell and toxin concentrations off the coast of Washington. By including the sensor on the robot during deployment, scientists are better able to assess the toxicity level of a given algal bloom.

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