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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  • 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.
  • How a male-hating bacterium rejuvenates
    A team from Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University together with their Russian colleagues carried out genetic analysis of the symbiotic bacterium Wolbachia that prevents the birth and development of males in different species of arthropods. It turns out that the microorganisms exchange their genes to rejuvenate. The results of the study were published in the Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution journal.
  • 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.
  • Why photosynthesis works better for some plants than others
    RuBisCO plays a key role in photosynthesis and is one of the most abundant enzymes in the world. A Japanese research team has revealed how charge distribution on RuBisCO's active sites is linked to the enzyme's ability to recognize carbon dioxide. This discovery can potentially be used to improve the carbon dioxide-fixing ability of RuBisCO, which could boost photosynthesis rates in plants, increase food supplies and lower carbon dioxide emissions. The findings were published on February 28 in Biochemical Society Transactions.
  • Researchers analyze biodiversity patterns in Antarctic Dry Valleys
    Antarctica is a nearly uninhabited, ice-covered continent ravaged by cold, windy, and dry conditions. Virginia Tech researcher Jeb Barrett was part of an international collaborative team that analyzed biodiversity patterns in the McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica.
  • Researchers discover new nitrogen source in Arctic
    Scientists have revealed that the partnership between an alga and bacteria is making the essential element nitrogen newly available in the Arctic Ocean. The microbial process of "nitrogen fixation" converts the element into a form that organisms can use, and was discovered recently in the frigid polar waters. This shift may be a result of climate change and could affect global chemical cycles, according to the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
  • Carbon-fixing enzyme 10 times more abundant than previously thought
    This is how Manajit Hayer-Hartl from the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry, Germany, sums up her thoughts on a new analysis that the global abundance of plants' carbon dioxide converting enzyme is an order of magnitude higher than thought: "Since I work on rubisco I'm always giving talks saying that it is the most abundant protein on Earth. Sometimes my audience will ask 'Are you really sure?' I can now say 'Yes I am.'"
  • 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.
  • How bacteria build hyper-efficient photosynthesis machines
    Researchers facing a future with a larger population and more uncertain climate are looking for ways to improve crop yields, and they're looking to photosynthetic bacteria for engineering solutions.
  • 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.
  • Proteins reveal intricate details about life under the microscope
    People have always been fascinated by life. We dream about revealing all its mysteries and are even searching other planets trying to find some forms of life there. Philosophies around the world have tried to define and understand life long before science even existed. But some of the answers may actually be found right under our noses – or rather, right under a microscope.
  • 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.
  • New biocontainment strategy controls spread of escaped GMOs
    Hiroshima University (HU) researchers successfully developed a biocontainment strategy for genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. Their new method prevents genetically modified cyanobacteria from surviving outside of their test environment, enabling ways to more safely research the effects of GMOs. Their results were published in ACS Synthetic Biology.
  • 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.
  • Rainfall after drought caused explosion of cyanobacteria populations
    The first rains after a long period of drought this summer washed so much fertiliser into the surface water, including the swimming water, that cyanobacteria made the water unusable and dangerous. Researchers from Wageningen University & Research, the Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO) and Brazilian universities have shown in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology how a pulse of fertiliser causes an explosion of cyanobacteria populations.
  • What is causing Florida's algae crisis?
    Two large-scale algae outbreaks in Florida are killing fish and threatening public health. Along the southwest coast, one of the longest-lasting red tide outbreaks in the state's history is affecting more than 100 miles of beaches. Meanwhile, discharges of polluted fresh water from Lake Okeechobee and polluted local runoff water from the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee watersheds have caused blooms of blue-green algae in downstream estuaries on both coasts. Karl Havens, a professor at the University of Florida and director of the Florida Sea Grant Program, explains what's driving this two-pronged disaster.
  • Iron-silica particles in ancient seawater helped cyanobacteria oxygenate Earth's oceans billions of years ago
    The oxygenation of Earth's atmosphere was thanks, in part, to iron and silica particles in ancient seawater, according to a new study by geomicrobiologists at the University of Alberta. But these results solve only part of this ancient mystery.
  • Researchers engineer bacteria to create fertilizer out of thin air
    In the future, plants will be able to create their own fertilizer. Farmers will no longer need to buy and spread fertilizer for their crops, and increased food production will benefit billions of people around the world, who might otherwise go hungry.

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