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Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts received a $556,352 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to conduct research to determine the sources of red tides in northeast coastal waters. NOAA is an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The grant is from the Ecology and Oceanography of Harmful Algal Blooms program, managed by the NOAA Ocean Service, Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research, Coastal Ocean Program. The grant will support research to find the sources of Alexandrium resting cysts in the Gulf of Maine. Alexandrium is the cause of Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning in northeast U.S. coastal waters. This potentially fatal neurological disorder is caused by human ingestion of shellfish that accumulate toxins as they feed on Alexandrium dinoflagellates. State and local managers monitor algae levels aggressively to ensure seafood safety. Previous CSCOR projects described Alexandrium growth and the factors that control its transport and toxicity sufficiently and predictive models are being developed to aid resource managers. Critical missing information for developing fully functional predictive models involves the sources of cysts and the ability to quantitatively describe cyst behavior.

“Harmful algal blooms are a serious economic and public health problem all over the world. A better understanding of the Alexandrium life cycle will improve NOAA’s ability to ensure public safety,” said retired Navy vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “NOAA and the Bush administration are working to improve the understanding of our environment and to strengthen local and regional initiatives like those run by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.”

“Monitoring and predicting algal blooms that cause severe illness and possibly death in humans are significant benefits from an integrated ocean observing system,” said Richard Spinrad, assistant administrator of the NOAA Ocean Service, which sponsored the research. “NOAA Ocean Service and its partners in state government and academia are producing new methods to detect harmful algal blooms, automating the process, implementing the technologies into monitoring programs, and developing models to predict when and where blooms will occur. Through research, NOAA is finding out more about what triggers blooms and transports their toxins, and is using these new abilities in early warning systems to help coastal managers.”

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is a private, independent, not-for-profit corporation dedicated to research and higher education at the frontiers of ocean science. Its primary mission is to develop and effectively communicate a fundamental understanding of the processes and characteristics governing how the oceans function and how they interact with the Earth as a whole. The Institution strives to be a world leader in advancing and communicating a basic understanding of the oceans and their decisive role in addressing global questions.

The research program will be conducted with Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in West Boothbay Harbor, Maine. Established in 1974, Bigelow Lab is a private, non-profit, oceanographic research institution supported by federal research grants and private funds.

Each year, NOAA Ocean Service’s Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research awards approximately $30 million in grants to members of the academic, state and scientific communities to assist NOAA in fulfilling its mission to study our coastal oceans in order to predict environmental change, manage ocean resources, protect life and property, and provide decision makers with reliable and timely scientific information. NOAA-sponsored competitive research programs such as ECOHAB demonstrate NOAA's commitment to these basic responsibilities of science and service to the nation for the past 34 years.

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of our nation’s coastal and marine resources.

On the Web:

NOAA Ecology and Oceanography of Harmful Algal Blooms (ECOHAB)