--FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—
June 16, 2011
Contact: Tatiana Brailovskaya, Director of Communications, Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, (207) 633-9633; firstname.lastname@example.org
And the Sea Turned to Blood
WEST BOOTHBAY HARBOR, ME -- Phytoplankton ecologist Dr. Cynthia Heil will kick off Bigelow Laboratory’s 2011 program of summer Café Scientifique gatherings at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, June 28 with a discussion of the ecology of red tides and the microscopic, and often toxic, single-celled algae that cause them. “And the Sea Turned to Blood” is the first of ten informal “science conversations” scheduled for Tuesday evenings, June 28 through August 30, from 6 to 7 p.m. at the Boothbay Harbor Opera House, 86 Townsend Avenue in Boothbay Harbor.
Most blooms of marine phytoplankton nourish other life forms and play an essential role in nutrient cycling. But a small number of the myriads of phytoplankton species that exist in the oceans are harmful to marine life and human health. Blooms of these species result in shellfish closures and have major impacts on the economy and ecology of the coast. According to Heil, harmful algal blooms (HABs) have occurred naturally throughout history, but recent decades have seen a marked increase in their frequency and extent.
“HABs such as red tide are spreading to more areas of the ocean and occurring more often than before, with huge implications for ocean health, human health, and how we manage coastal areas,” Heil says. “I’m working to determine the direct and indirect impacts of HABs and their toxins on marine life and human health so that we can better predict, control, and mitigate these impacts.”
Heil is developing Bigelow Laboratory’s Phytoplankton Ecology and Harmful Algal Bloom facilities to investigate causes behind the increase and spread of HABs. Before joining the Laboratory as a Senior Research Scientist last November, she was a Senior Research Scientist and Administrator at the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, the research division of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, where she was HAB subsection leader for six years. Her current research includes the study of the nutrient dynamics of Karenia (one of the phytoplankton groups that causes red tide) in the eastern Gulf of Mexico as part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s ECOHAB Program.
Heil is a long-time summer resident of Cape Newagen, and her family goes back four generations in the area.
“It’s an absolute thrill to be back,” she says.
Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences conducts research ranging from microbial oceanography -- examining the biology in the world’s oceans at the molecular level -- to the large-scale ocean processes that affect global environmental conditions. The Laboratory is recognized as a leader in Maine’s emerging innovation economy, and is spurring significant economic growth in the state through construction of a major Ocean Science and Education Campus in East Boothbay. The Laboratory’s Café Scientifique talks are free and open to the public, with beer, wine, and sodas available for purchase. The complete 2011 summer Café Scientifique program is posted on the Laboratory’s website (www.bigelow.org).####
Photo: Alexandrium, a toxic dinoflagellate responsible for red tide in Maine. Courtesy of Bigelow Laboratory.