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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Testing a New Tool for Monitoring Algal Toxins

  • Author(s): Kudela, Raphael M
  • et al.

A new tool for tracking algal toxins is under development. The tool resembles a tea bag filled with sand and, like a tea bag, is soaked in water. The grains in the sac, though, are actually tiny porous resin beads that selectively absorb domoic acid, a naturally occurring neurotoxin that causes amnesic shellfish poisoning in people and brain seizures in marine mammals.

The UC Santa Cruz scientists leading this project envision hanging the “tea bags” off piers and wharfs in California to continuously track algal toxin levels. The idea is similar to what is already being done through the state’s sentinel “mussel watch” program, except that the “tea bags” can detect lower levels of toxins and are unaffected by harmful algal blooms and pollution that can kill living organisms.

Ultimately, scientists would like to use ocean-monitoring data in conjunction with the algal tracking technology to forecast algal blooms based on observed environmental conditions.

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