Toxic cyanobacteria (blue-green algae)

A long-standing research area primarily concerned with computer simulation of the growth and movement of problem cyanobacterial blooms and strategies for their management.

2012 Howard, A. Toxic Cyanobacteria in Bengstsson, L., Herschy, R. and Fairbridge, R. (eds) Encyclopedia of Lakes and Reservoirs. Springer. ISBN 9781402056161.

2011 Guven, B. and Howard, A. Sensitivity analysis of a cyanobacterial growth and movement model under two different flow regimes, Environmental Modeling and Assessment. 16:577-589.

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  • Minuscule microbes wield enormous power over the Great Lakes, but many species remain a mystery
    Near the deepest spot in Lake Michigan, the crew aboard the research vessel Blue Heron lowers a device outfitted with a cluster of 8-liter bottles into the dark blue waters until it disappears from sight.
  • How multicellular cyanobacteria transport molecules
    Researchers from ETH Zurich and the University of Tübingen have taken a high-resolution look at the structure and function of cell-to-cell connections in filamentous, multicellular cyanobacteria. This enables them to explain how these microorganisms regulate the transport of various substances between the individual cells.
  • Exoplanet evolution: Astronomers expand cosmic 'cheat sheet'
    Cornell astronomers have reached into nature's color palette from early Earth to create a cosmic "cheat sheet" for looking at distant worlds. By correlating tints and hues, researchers aim to understand where discovered exoplanets may reasonably fall along their own evolutionary spectrum.
  • Toxic algae increases in Florida's Lake Okeechobee
    Recent tests results show that toxic amounts of blue-green algae have surfaced in Lake Okeechobee, according to data released by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
  • Researchers create first portable tech for detecting cyanotoxins in water
    North Carolina State University researchers have developed the first portable technology that can test for cyanotoxins in water. The device can be used to detect four common types of cyanotoxins, including two for which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently finalized recreational water quality criteria.
  • NASA helps warn of harmful algal blooms in lakes, reservoirs
    Harmful algal blooms can cause big problems in coastal areas and lakes across the United States. When toxin-containing aquatic organisms multiply and form a bloom, it can sicken people and pets, contaminate drinking water, and force closures at boating and swimming sites.
  • Algae: Here, there, and everywhere
    On a clear and cold February morning in 2015, Ruth Kassinger slipped on an insulated down coat and donned knee-high waterproof boots. Stepping aboard a long fishing boat in South Korea's Hoedong Harbor, she gingerly navigated her way around a 3-foot-deep blue bin that covered the deck side to side and end to end. The bin would hold the day's harvest of Porphyra, a seaweed cultivated in the bay's expansive waters. The captain motored the boat out to a vast network of floating nets, from which hung "limp, wet streamers" of seaweed, as Kassinger describes them. As workers guided the nets across the boat's deck, a machine with rotating blades sheared off the pieces of seaweed, which fell into the bin. The work was cold and wet and physically demanding, and by 10:30 that morning, the boat and its crew returned to dock carrying their bounty.
  • There's a giant dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico thanks in large part to pollution from Chicago
    Just off the coast of Louisiana, where the Mississippi River lets out into the Gulf of Mexico, an enormous algae bloom, fueled by fertilizer from Midwestern farm fields and urban sewage, creates an area so devoid of oxygen it's uninhabitable to most marine life every summer.
  • Electrons take alternative route to prevent plant stress
    Plants are susceptible to stress, and with the global impact of climate change and humanity's growing demand for food, it's crucial to understand what causes plant stress and stress tolerance. When plants absorb excess light energy during photosynthesis, reactive oxygen species are produced, potentially causing oxidative stress that damages important structures. Plants can suppress the production of reactive oxygen species by oxidizing P700 (the reaction center chlorophyll in photosystem I). A new study has revealed more about this vital process: the cyclic electron flow induced by P700 oxidation is an electric charge recombination occurring in photosystem I. These findings were published on June 5 in Plants.
  • Hybrid nanostructure steps up light-harvesting efficiency
    To absorb incoming sunlight, plants and certain kinds of bacteria rely on a light-harvesting protein complex containing molecules called chromophores. This complex funnels solar energy to the photosynthetic reaction center, where it is converted into chemical energy for metabolic processes.
  • 'Fishing a line' coupled with clockwork for daily rhythm
    Organisms on this planet, including human beings, exhibit a biological rhythm that repeats about every 24 hours to adapt to the daily environmental alteration caused by the rotation of the earth. This circadian rhythm is regulated by a set of biomolecules working as a biological clock. In cyanobacteria (or blue-green algae), the circadian rhythm is controlled by the assembly and disassembly of three clock proteins, namely, KaiA, KaiB, and KaiC. KaiC forms a hexameric-ring structure and plays a central role in the clock oscillator, which works by consuming ATP, the energy currency molecule of the cell. However, it remains unknown how the clock proteins work autonomously for generating the circadian oscillation.
  • Scientists throw new light on photosynthetic supercomplex structure
    A team of scientists from Arizona State University has taken a significant step closer to unlocking the secrets of photosynthesis, by determining the structure of a very large photosynthetic supercomplex.
  • Arctic lakes and rivers can lose the diversity of freshwater species
    Climate change and its impacts threaten the health of Arctic freshwater ecosystems, with continued warming pushing cold-water species unique to the Arctic—such as the Arctic char—to the brink of regional loss. In addition, there is an increasing likelihood of toxic cyanobacteria blooms, according to the State of the Arctic Freshwater Biodiversity Report published in early May.
  • Algal blooms in Lake Erie's central basin could produce neurotoxins
    Harmful algal blooms pose a unique toxic threat in Lake Erie's central basin, new research has found.
  • Discovery of the photosensor for yellow-green light-driven photosynthesis in cyanobacteria
    Cyanobacteria, a type of bacteria that perform photosynthesis, utilize a photosensor that regulates green and red light-harvesting antenna proteins for photosynthesis. A joint research team from Toyohashi University of Technology, the University of Tokyo, and the National Institute for Physiological Science found a new photosensor that regulates yellow-green light-harvesting antenna protein in cyanobacteria. Further analysis of the cyanobacterial genomes revealed that this photosensor emerged about 2.1 billion years ago or more, and evolved through genetic exchange (horizontal gene transfer) between cyanobacteria.
  • Geoscientists find new fallout from 'the collision that changed the world'
    When the landmass that is now the Indian subcontinent slammed into Asia about 50 million years ago, the collision changed the configuration of the continents, the landscape, global climate and more. Now a team of Princeton University scientists has identified one more effect: the oxygen in the world's oceans increased, altering the conditions for life.
  • Plant signals trigger remarkable bacterial transformation
    The cycad Cycas revoluta is a palm-like plant that grows on rocky coastal cliffs in the sub-tropics and tropics. It has a symbiotic relationship with the Nostoc species of bacteria that can convert nitrogen from the atmosphere into ammonia, which the host plant can then use for its growth. Scientists knew that cycad roots produce a compound that can induce Nostoc species within the soil to transform into their motile form, hormogonia, and attracting them to the roots. However, nobody has determined what exactly the compound is.
  • Lake Erie's toxic algae blooms: Why is the water turning green?
    Since the late 1990s, Lake Erie has been plagued with blooms of toxic algae that turn its waters a bright blue-green. These harmful algae blooms are made up of cyanobacteria that produce the liver toxin microcystin.
  • Our first look at a new light-absorbing protein in cyanobacteria
    Cyanobacteria are tiny, hardy organisms. Each cell is 25 times smaller than a human hair, but don't let the size fool you. Their collective ability to do expand photosynthesis is why we have air to breathe and a diverse and complex biosphere.
  • Understanding circadian rhythms in algae and fungi
    Fungi, algae, and cyanobacteria might not complain about jet lag. But like humans, their physiologies adhere to a roughly 24-hour cycle of behavioral patterns in the absence of external cues. Organisms that experience recurring day and night cycles have evolved a biochemical oscillator or circadian clock. This clock determines which activities, from sleep to cellular metabolism, occur at biologically advantageous times.
  • Unusual sugar from cyanobacteria acts as natural herbicide
    Researchers at the University of Tübingen have discovered a natural substance that could compete with the controversial herbicide glyphosate: a newly discovered sugar molecule synthesized from cyanobacteria that inhibits the growth of various microorganisms and plants but is harmless to humans and animals. The joint study was led by Dr. Klaus Brilisauer, Professor Stephanie Grond (Institute of Organic Chemistry) and Professor Karl Forchhammer (Interfaculty Institute of Microbiology and Infection Medicine). It was published in the journal Nature Communications on Friday.
  • A boost for photosynthesis
    Photosynthesis is a fundamental biological process by which plants use light energy for growth. Most life forms on Earth are directly or indirectly dependent on photosynthesis. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Germany have collaborated with colleagues from the Australian National University to study the formation of carboxysomes, a structure that increases the efficiency of photosynthesis in aquatic bacteria. Their results, now published in Nature, could lead to the engineering of plants with more efficient photosynthesis and thus higher crop yields.
  • Poisons or medicines? Cyanobacteria toxins protect tiny lake dwellers from parasites
    The cyanobacteria blooms that plague western Lake Erie each summer are both an unsightly nuisance and a potential public health hazard, producing liver toxins that can be harmful to humans and their pets.
  • Ocean fertilization by unusual microbes extends to frigid waters of Arctic Ocean
    Microbes that provide natural fertilizer to the oceans by "fixing" nitrogen from the atmosphere into a form useable by other organisms were once thought to be limited to warm tropical and subtropical waters. Now, however, researchers have documented nitrogen fixation by an unusual type of cyanobacteria in the cold waters of the Bering and Chukchi Seas.
  • Oxygen could have been available to life as early as 3.5 billion years ago
    Microbes could have performed oxygen-producing photosynthesis at least one billion years earlier in the history of the Earth than previously thought.
  • Lake Erie algal blooms 'seeded' internally by overwintering cells in lake-bottom sediments
    Western Lake Erie's annual summer algal blooms are triggered, at least in part, by cyanobacteria cells that survive the winter in lake-bottom sediments, then emerge in the spring to "seed" the next year's bloom, according to a research team led by University of Michigan scientists.
  • Cells decide when to divide based on their internal clocks
    Cells replicate by dividing, but scientists still don't know exactly how they decide when to split. Deciding the right time and the right size to divide is critical for cells – if something goes wrong it can have a big impact, such as with cancer, which is basically a disease of uncontrolled cell division.
  • 'Bionic mushrooms' fuse nanotech, bacteria and fungi
    In their latest feat of engineering, researchers at Stevens Institute of Technology have taken an ordinary white button mushroom from a grocery store and made it bionic, supercharging it with 3-D-printed clusters of cyanobacteria that generate electricity and swirls of graphene nanoribbons that can collect the current.
  • Cyanobacteria found living 600 meters underground without sunlight
    A team of researchers from Spain, Germany and the U.S. has found a type of cyanobacteria that is capable of living more than 600 meters underground—in the absence of sunlight. In their paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the group describes their study of the cyanobacteria and what they found.
  • Blue-green algae promises to boost food crop yields
    Scientists at ANU have engineered tiny carbon-capturing engines from blue-green algae into plants, in a breakthrough that promises to help boost the yields of important food crops such as wheat, cowpeas and cassava.

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