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Physiology, Molecular Ecology

Physiology, Molecular Ecology
Ciguatera fish poisoning is the most common seafood-toxin illness reported in the world. It moves through the food chain from small toxic algae to large fish like this grouper. We developed effective, inexpensive molecular tests to detect the algae.

Each species of algae behaves differently and has different bloom triggers and toxins. Accurate species identification is fundamental to effective HAB response and management. We are applying our expertise in algae taxonomy, morphology, and genetic fingerprinting to develop effective, inexpensive tests for HAB detection and identification.

For example, several species of the alga Gambierdiscus cause ciguatera fish poisoning in the Atlantic, Caribbean, and the Gulf of Mexico. The toxin can't be cooked out of the fish, and we don't yet have a test for toxins in the flesh, so monitoring the reef for elevated numbers of Gambierdiscus cells is the only way to ensure safe seafood. The fast, accurate, and cost effective identification protocols we develop protect lives and livelihoods.