A researcher collects a water sample

Harmful Algal Blooms

Harmful Algal Blooms, or HABs, occur when algae grow out of control and produce toxic or harmful effects on people or other organisms. HABs often occur when excess nutrients are added to a water body through a variety of sources, including fertilizer application and wastewater disposal. The overgrowth of Cyanobacteria, commonly known as blue-green algae, is particularly problematic because common Cyanobacteria species can produce toxic metabolites that can be lethal to wildlife, livestock and humans, consequently endangering ecosystem and human health.

There is increasing human health concern related to the presence of these cyanotoxins in recreational waterbodies and municipal drinking water. Drinking water treatment technologies designed to remove Cyanobacteria cells are not very effective in removing cyanotoxins, thereby potentially endangering the drinking water supply during cyanobacterial bloom events. The CESE Labs utilize state-of-the-art instrumentation to identify and quantify these algal toxins in organisms, including shellfish and sea turtles, as well as marine and fresh waters.

Research Capabilities

CESE has considerable capacity to support a diversity of research projects related to cyanotoxin research and analysis by providing quantitative assessments of a wide array of water quality parameters, cyanotoxins and their isomers in water and biological tissues. Examples of projects that CESE can support include:

  • Quantification of nutrient species in fresh and saline systems, with detection limits of as low as 1ppb
  • Quantification of cyanobacterial toxins, including individual microcystin analogs
  • Detection and quantitation of marine algal toxins in fish, shellfish, and marine mammals
  • Development and validation of novel methods to detect toxins and their individual analogs at extremely trace levels
  • Conduct exploratory analysis for marine toxins and their metabolites in biological tissue
  • Quantify the association between environmental characteristics, densities of species of algae and cyanobacteria, and concentration of various cyanotoxins

    Available Instrumentation

    CESE has extensive analytical expertise and advanced instrumentation in the quantification of algae, cyanobacteria and their toxins in fresh and marine waters.


    Ultra performance liquid chromatograph/ tandem mass spectrometer (UPLC/MS/MS)
    Ultra performance liquid chromatograph/ quadrupole time-of-flight spectrometer (UPLC/QToF)
    ELISA plate reader
    Liquid chromatograph/ fluorescence and ultraviolet detectors (LC/FL/UV)
    Nikon stereo microscopes