NOAA and Sea Grant Research Featured at Symposium on Harmful Algal Blooms in NY's Coastal Waters
Brown Tide Research Initiative - News
Southampton, NY, May 30, 2012 - In mid-April, Stony Brook University (SBU) researcher and professor at its School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SOMAS) Dr. Christopher J. Gobler hosted the ninth annual Stony Brook-Southampton Coastal and Estuarine Research Program (SCERP) Environmental Symposium on SBU's Stony Brook-Southampton campus.
 
The symposium - entitled “Connecting the Dots: Linkages Between Land Use and the Degradation of the Suffolk County Water Bodies” - was an opportunity for Long Island residents, as well as government and non-government agencies, to learn about the most recent information regarding harmful algal blooms (HAB) and other environmental problems on Long Island.  

A large focus of Dr. Gobler’s presentation and posters presented by eight graduate students was the linkages between excessive nutrient loading and harmful algal blooms occurring on Long Island caused by differing microalgae including Alexandrium, Dinophysis, Aureococcus, Cochlodinium and Microcystis.  

Much of this research is supported by current and previous grants supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), including the Brown Tide Research Initiative (BTRI). BTRI, a $3 million, six year program administered by New York Sea Grant (NYSG), was launched by NOAA's Coastal Ocean Program (COP) in 1996 to better understand the factors that lead to bloom initiation, maintain blooms, and cause them to crash.

Brown tides, one of a number of harmful algal blooms, are caused by a proliferation of single-celled marine plants called phytoplankton. One species of phytoplankton, the microscopic alga Aureococcus anophagefferens, blooms in such densities at times that the water turns dark brown, a condition known as "brown tide."

Since BTRI, numerous HAB investigations led or including Gobler have been funded by NYSG. In a two-year NYSG and Long Island Sound Study (LISS)-funded project completed in early 2011, Gobler examined the harmful algal bloom Alexandrium fundyense in nearshore and open water regions of Long Island Sound. Gobler’s focus was on the distribution, causes and impacts of this red tide algae, a serious, emerging human health threat that causes paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP).

Funding of this NYSG study (see NYSG's related news item) led to a subsequent larger grant through NOAA's National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS), announced in November 2011 (see NYSG's related news item).

Said NYSG Director Dr. Jim Ammerman, “This project builds on prior support for Dr. Gobler’s studies of Alexandrium on the north shore of Long Island by the Long Island Sound Study, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) program which provides research funding to New York and Connecticut Sea Grant for such research. New York Sea Grant has also awarded prior grants to other NY investigators for developing methods to measure the PSP toxin.  New York Sea Grant has a long history of support for harmful algal bloom studies throughout the state via its own research program as well as special NOAA initiatives.”

In addition to NYSG's Ammerman being in attendance at last month's SCERP Environmental Symposium, there were also numerous local citizens and prominent government officials, the latter of which included the Southampton Town Supervisor, the President of the Southampton Town Trustees, several Southampton Town Trustees, Environmental Planners from Suffolk County, and individuals representing New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the US EPA. Non-governmental organizations in attendance included The Nature Conservancy, Citizen’s Campaign for the Environment, Peconic Baykeeper, Group for the East End, and the Pine Barrens Society.
 
Following the presentations there was an extended question and answer period, as well as discussions with government officials regarding the approaches that can be taken to lessen nitrogen loading to coastal bays in order to mitigate the annual re-occurrence of harmful algal blooms on Long Island.

New York Sea Grant (NYSG), a cooperative program of Cornell University and the State University of New York, is one of 32 university-based programs under the National Sea Grant College Program (NSGCP) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The NSGCP engages this network of the nation’s top universities in conducting scientific research, education, training and extension projects designed to foster science-based decisions about the use and conservation of our aquatic resources. Through its statewide network of integrated services, NYSG has been promoting coastal vitality, environmental sustainability, and citizen awareness about the State’s marine and Great Lakes resources since 1971.

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