Underwater microscope could be early warning system for dangerous algae in harbor

[USA] Baltimore’s Inner Harbor draws a lot of attention, but not in the detail a new project could bring.

“There’s a new instrument that’s come out that’s essentially an underwater microscope,” says Dr. Allen Pace, with the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science.

He’s heading up a project called Harbor Watchman, and is hoping to raise $150,000 in donations to buy the microscope, the official name of which is FloCytobot.

According to Pace, “it actually is an early warning for harmful algal blooms that are occurring.”


Algal blooms in the Inner Harbor are coming, and sometimes lead to fish kills. But toxic algae is more of a concern when it enters the human food chain, because oysters eat algae.

Right now, water samples must be collected, taken to labs and studies under microscopes.

The FloCytobot takes 500,000 microscopic images a day, sends them to computers that rapidly identify the algae and its potential risks.

If it workers in the harbor, it could someday be used in oyster harvest areas.

“Again as an early warning for whether we should harvest or not,” Pace says. “Not after the fact when somebody gets sick because they’ve eaten a tainted oyster or tainted clam.”

To see the donation drive to purchase the underwater microscope, CLICK HERE.


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