Early detection

October 20, 2006

VIRGINIA KEY, FLA. (Oct. 20, 2006) - University of Miami Rosenstiel School researcher Dr. Mara Diaz has been awarded $147,721 to develop a rapid detection tool for harmful algal blooms (HABs), by the Cooperative Institute for Coastal and Estuarine Environmental Technology (CICEET). A partnership between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of New Hampshire, CICEET develops tools for clean water and healthy coastal environments nationwide.

Diaz's expertise in developing molecular techniques for the identification of pathogenic microbes is critical for the development of a cost effective tool that will enable the detection of HABs.

"Molecular methods are a promising avenue to improve detection of microbial contaminants in coastal environments. With this in mind, I will explore the integration of three novel molecular techniques intended to improve red tide monitoring practices. Other areas where this research can be applied include drinking water, watershed, and waste water management." Diaz said.

Harmful algal blooms can poison shellfish, finfish, marine animals, and humans. Human exposure to these toxic blooms can range from physical contact with contaminated water to eating contaminated fish and seafood, or even inhalation of airborne toxins from sea spray. The impact on public health and regional economies is intensifying as the frequency and duration of harmful bloom occurrences continues to grow.

Diaz and other researchers will be building on a previous CICEET project that has already developed a rapid detection array for harmful algae species. Using innovative technologies, researchers seek to enhance the ability to rapidly detect and quantify multiple target HAB species and provide an early warning system for harmful algal blooms.

CICEET awarded $3,650,337 so far this year to fund 15 projects primarily aimed at natural resource management in coastal states. The projects focus on detection, prevention, and recovery of coastal areas posing a threat to human health. Researchers will develop tools to address problems in 15 different states including Alabama, North Carolina, Florida, Virginia, New York, and California.
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Diaz, an associate scientist in marine biology and fisheries, received her bachelor's in biology and her masters in marine science from the University of Puerto Rico. She holds a doctorate in coastal oceanography from the Marine Science Research Center of SUNY Stony Brook in Long Island. Diaz is currently working closely with the Rookery Bay, Fla., National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR).

Rosenstiel School is part of the University of Miami and, since its founding in the 1940s, has grown into one of the world's premier marine and atmospheric research institutions. See http://www.rsmas.miami.edu

University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science

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