Beginning in the spring of 2015 the US West Coast began to experience the most wide-spread toxic Pseudo-nitzschia bloom to date, after approximately eight years without a toxic bloom event. Some species of Pseudo-nitzschia produce the neurotoxin domoic acid, which can have deleterious effects on marine wildlife (e.g. mammals and seabirds) as well as human consumers of food items (e.g. shellfish, crabs, sardines, anchovies) that are contaminated with the toxin. This multi-agency project aims to survey the bloom region, which stretches from southern California into the Gulf of Alaska, on the greatest spatial and temporal extent possible. Goals of the survey are to identify the extent of the bloom, the concentration of domoic acid in the bloom, the Pseudo-nitzschia species responsible for the toxicity, and the relationship of the bloom event to prevailing oceanographic and atmospheric conditions. The survey will allow for the creation of maps showing the spatial extent and concentrations of domoic acid, Pseudo-nitzschia, and oceanographic parameters such as temperature and salinity. The data collected from the survey will inform inferences as to the cause(s) of the toxic event. The effort will employ targeted research cruises, cruises of opportunity, and shore based sampling. Samples will be analyzed for marine toxins, harmful algal species, and other environmental and oceanographic parameters using state-of-the-art methodologies.
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