The FWRI harmful algal bloom research group cultures and maintains a collection of microalgae for use by FWRI scientists and other scientists worldwide. The cultures are grown in the laboratory and stored in environmentally controlled growth chambers.
The FWRI harmful algal bloom (HAB) research group maintains a collection of microalgae for research purposes. Most of the algae in this collection are HAB species, including the Florida red tide organism, Karenia brevis. The algae in the collection are grown (cultured) in the laboratory, so they are readily available for scientific studies. FWRI scientists maintain the culture collection primarily for institute use, but the algae are also loaned to scientists in different parts of the world to aid in their research.
Researchers add to the culture collection by isolating single algal cells from water samples that are collected in the field. To isolate the cells, scientists place small drops of water from the field sample on a ringed slide and view the slide under a light microscope. Single cells are then selected and drawn up, one at a time, into a very thin glass tube. The cells are drawn into the tube by suction, in the same way that water is drawn into a straw.
Each cell is placed in its own circular well in a tissue culture well plate. Each well contains the necessary seawater and nutrients for the single cell to grow and divide.
As the cells increase in number, they are transferred to larger plates with larger wells, then to flasks, and eventually to larger containers called carboys.
Once the cells are successfully established in culture, they are examined using light microscopy and scanning electron microscopy to confirm species identification. The culture is then added to the collection and becomes available for use in scientific investigations.
For long-term storage, the cultures are transferred into test tubes and placed in environmentally controlled growth chambers at FWRI.