Broader Impacts


Interactions and communication in the Woods Hole COHH

The figure at right gives an overall view of the communication pathways that occur within the WHCOHH. The Center establishes a cohesive approach to address and advance the understanding of how coastal ecology and physical processes may influence human health risks from harmful algae. The WHCOHH has visibility and impact within the Woods Hole science community, and to the scientific and public health communities at large.

Communication within the Center: Communication for planning, collaboration, and exchanging information and data occurs in several ways.  Formal meetings of all project leaders and other personnel occur monthly.  All investigators are located in the Village of Woods Hole campus; Anderson, Hahn, Stegeman and Aluru have adjoining labs in the Redfield building and see one another frequently.  McGillicuddy and Ralston have labs and offices in the nearby Bigelow Building, and there is often daily interaction.

At the monthly Center meetings, one of the three projects is highlighted for detailed discussion of progress (i.e., a research presentation) and its interactions with the other projects.  A major goal of the meetings is to ensure that collaborations and sharing of data and resources among the research projects are aggressively pursued.  Altered frequency of meetings may be called for during periods of more active interaction, or in heavy fieldwork seasons.  In addition to the monthly meetings, there will be an annual retreat for all program participants that will involve presentations by students and post-docs, as well as discussion of the detailed progress and upcoming plans including interactions. The retreat will be held at a location separate from Village Campus, and will focus intently on integration and planning.

There also will be two separate meetings with the EAC, one in year 2 and one near the start of year 4, that will include progress reports by each Center component. The Center participants will also communicate via a listserv and through a WHCOHH website that will provide information and online access to data and progress.

Communication with the OHH community and other Centers: The WHCOHH website will be linked through the CEC to the Harmful Algae Page, a national and global resource for research, management, and policy related to HABs.  Links will be made as well to Northeast PSP, a regional web page that disseminates information on Alexandrium blooms and PSP toxicity in the Northeast. That web page will be renamed (Northeast HABs) and its content greatly expanded through the CEC in this program.

We will communicate with the other Centers for Oceans and Human Health when they are established, to discuss ways for regular communication, to identify areas of common research interest and possible collaboration, and in facilitating preparations for hosting annual meetings and arranging joint communication with NIH and NSF program managers.

In addition, there are other groups in the Woods Hole community with whom we will communicate regarding mutual interests. These include the Woods Hole Research Center (a premier global climate change think tank), and the Ecosystems Center at the Marine Biological Laboratory. We will explore opportunities for cooperation with these organizations, including seeking to have the broader OHH included in the list of topics for which they may invite speakers, and for occasional collaboration/funding opportunities.

Communication with resource managers: Center PIs have had many years of sustained and highly productive interaction with State and Federal resource managers in the Northeast regions affected by HABs to be studied, including the Maine Department of Marine Resources, the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, and the FDA. Through the CEC, beginning in Year 1, we will engage local, state, and tribal resource managers to help identify their information needs, and to provide alerts regarding blooms.  We also will meet with resource managers (e.g., Shellfish Wardens) at least annually to report on red tide and toxicological risk assessment and help guide the design of monitoring and action programs in the event of future incidents. We also will work closely with local Sea Grant offices to disseminate the materials to relevant state, local, county, and municipality resource managers and the public in the New England states.

Communication with public health officials: Though the Administrative Core and the CEC, Project investigators will be engaged in developing materials for presentation through the Collaborative for Health and Environment and the Society for Risk Analysis – New England to reach the public health community.  We will seek to engage the other OHH Centers as they are established, to join in these activities. We also will engage the Massachusetts Department of Public Health in discussions regarding the Center’s activities relating to HAB toxins (particularly STX and DA) in seafood. We also will engage the Cape Cod Health Care system, and will seek to provide lectures to local physician groups regarding not only the findings, but also the overall science, including molecular toxicology and the risks of exposure.

Communication of results: The research in the Center will address fundamental questions of significance to oceanographic (phytoplankton bloom dynamics) and biomedical (mechanisms of toxin action) concerns. PIs and trainees will disseminate results via standard peer-reviewed publications and presentations at national and international scientific meetings. To assist student and postdoctoral presentations and maximize effective communication with the scientific community, we will provide presentation training as part of the normal course of activities of the Administration Core. Communication with the public in accurate and understandable ways will be facilitated through the CEC using various avenues, for example in articles on OHH in the WHOI magazine Oceanus, which publishes articles directed at the general public.  (The online version gets 500,000+ hits per year.)

Scientific Impact of the Center

This Center has the potential to benefit society through: 1) detailed exploration of toxic algae that represent significant threats to public health, fisheries, and ecosystems, both regionally and globally, 2) development and application of novel ocean observation technologies, 3) direct engagement of the public and stakeholders in the use and interpretation of project results; and 4) training young researchers. The Center is innovative in the research proposed, the technologies employed, the broad and perhaps global implications for HAB biology, the models to predict HAB events in a changing ocean, and the new understanding and implications of the developmental neurotoxic mechanisms we are uncovering.

Novel understanding of HAB dynamics: A unique and notable aspect of the Program is that these studies will employ a variety of in situ sensor technologies, including new instrumentation and deployment approaches developed by the applicants, to detect and characterize fully the key mechanisms regulating Alexandrium and Pseudo-nitzschia population dynamics in nature, and their response to climatic variation. Defining the newly uncovered plasticity in Alexandrium blooms could lead to mechanisms explaining the response of different populations to alternative habitats and environments. The identification of growing “degree days” as a common feature regulating the timing of A. fundyense bloom development could provide a simple but valuable management tool for bloom and toxin prediction. An innovative research design will determine consistency in A. fundyense population dynamics in across environmental conditions.

Variability in environmental forcing across years and among habitats also provides a proxy to assess future climate impacts on the responses of this key HAB organism. State of the art modeling will be used to realistically predict how climate and other environmental variables may influence population dynamics of HAB threats. The dynamics of Pseudo-nitzschia spp. remain largely uncharacterized in the GOM. Using the same in situ instruments and approaches new data will be generated for Pseudo-nitzschia to begin development of models that can be used in management and climate assessment efforts.

Novel mechanisms: The studies will define the scope of mechanisms of action in the developing central nervous system. Oligodendrocytes and myelination have not previously been investigated as targets of early life exposure to DA. The proposed studies of mechanisms of toxicity at various ages and doses are innovative, addressing the possibility of silent neurotoxicity--delayed harmful consequences unmasked by subsequent exposures in the adult. This will involve assessment of effects of exposure to one toxin on the later life consequences to exposure to the other toxin. A novel coupling of oceanographic and dietary exposure models for risk assessment is innovative and will indicate doses to use in zebrafish studies.

Novel technologies: The Environmental Sample Processor (ESP) is a submersible, robotic instrument that collects discrete water samples, concentrates microorganisms or particles, and automates application of molecular probes to identify target toxins and organisms through gene products. The instrument can be bundled with contextual sensors to document prevailing environmental conditions. The Imaging FlowCytobot (IFCB) is a submersible imaging-in-flow cytometer developed at WHOI for continuous, extended duration observation of phytoplankton communities. The system produces abundance estimates of species- and genus-level taxa in near real-time over six months or more.  Our newly developed “phytoplankton observatory platform” provides power and data connections that support co-deployments of the IFCB and ESP.  CTD profiling can trigger automated repositioning of sensors in response to hydrographic features. Similarly, the studies of novel mechanisms of developmental effects of toxins, which we have uncovered, will employ modern technologies, including transgenic zebrafish lines.

Novel outreach tools: The CEC will develop new materials to enhance OHH understanding for use in the classroom and in public information settings, such as visitor centers and museums.