Scientists in the biotoxins laboratory study toxins produced by
phytoplankton. The laboratory is also the official state laboratory
for testing shellfish following a red tide and is the only
FDA-certified laboratory in the state for this analysis.
More than 50 species of phytoplankton
that are capable of producing toxins are found in Florida waters.
Scientists in the biotoxins laboratory at FWRI analyze water
samples and plant and animal tissues for the presence of toxins
from these phytoplankton. Current research focuses primarily on
brevetoxins (produced by the Florida red tide organism, Karenia
brevis) and saxitoxin (produced by the dinoflagellate
Pyrodinium bahamense). These toxins can accumulate in
filter-feeding bivalves such as clams and oysters and present a
serious risk to public health. The biotoxins laboratory at FWRI is
the official state laboratory for testing algal toxins in shellfish
following harvesting bans due to red tide. Research projects
include investigating how these toxins are metabolized in shellfish
and their effects on aquatic animals such as manatees and fish.
Researchers in the biotoxins laboratory provide analytical support
to other researchers in the HAB section and also work closely with
other groups at FWRI and other agencies in response to fish kills,
marine mammal mortalities, and other events.