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Automated Sensor Provides Texas with Early Warning of Red Tide

Published on: 10/01/2014
Research Area(s): Marine Spatial Ecology
Region(s) of Study: U.S. States and Territories / Texas
Primary Contact(s): quay.dortch@noaa.gov

Last week, an NCCOS-funded sensor installed on a Port Aransas pier alerted Texas agencies to rising concentrations of Karenia brevis, the marine dinoflagellate that causes red tides.

The Imaging FlowCytobot

The Imaging FlowCytobot. Credit: Lisa Campbell, Texas A&M University.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the Texas Department of State Health Services, and other interested managers received a two-week early warning that a red tide bloom was possible in Corpus Christi's coastal waters. Cell concentrations at that time were well below the threshold to cause fish kills, discolored water, or respiratory irritation, but high enough to trigger shellfish monitoring to protect human health.

Texas A&M University developed the sensor, called an Imaging FlowCytobot, as part of an NCCOS-supported project. The device continuously collects, identifies, and counts tiny algae in the water using a camera and a laser-based system that detects algae based on their chlorophyll pigment. The instrument compares pictures it takes to images in a harmful algae database. If a match is found and the numbers of the harmful alga exceed a threshold, a warning is sent automatically to researchers and managers.

For more information, contact Quay.Dortch@noaa.gov.

University of Texas pier at Port Aransas

The Imaging FlowCytobot is deployed at the University of Texas -Marine Sciences Institute pier, located in the Port Aransas ship channel.

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