Toxic cyanobacteria (blue-green algae)

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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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  • 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.
  • What causes algal blooms, and how we can stop them?
    Outbreaks of algae have killed up to a million fish in the Murray Darling Basin over the last two weeks. The phenomena of "algae blooms", when the population of algae in a river rapidly grows and dies, can be devastating to local wildlife, ecosystems and people. But what are algae blooms? What causes them, and can we prevent them?
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  • Unpacking the history of how Earth feeds life, and life changes Earth
    At a fleeting glance, the study of life – biology – seems very separate from that of rocks, or geology.
  • 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.
  • Why biodiversity is key to our survival
    Diversity, be it genetic, morphological, behavioural or ecological, is at the heart of many controversies. It fascinates us or worries us, depending on the context. But what is biological diversity? How useful is it, how is it generated and what are the foreseeable consequences of reducing it?
  • 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.
  • Freshwater may hold key to managing Lake O's toxic algae, study finds
    U.S. Geological Survey scientists tinkering around with freshwater blue-green algae from Lake Okeechobee have made a simple, yet potentially significant discovery: the amount of salty water needed to transform the tiny organisms from benign to toxic as they travel toward busy coasts.
  • 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
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  • Researchers create most complete high-resolution atomic movie of photosynthesis to date
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    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.
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    Three continents. Nine countries. Cemeteries from Antwerp to Barcelona to Hellerup.
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    Over 1 billion years ago, a relationship began between the ancestor of all living plants and a type of bacterium that paved the way for the evolution of life as we know it. The single-celled algal ancestor engulfed, but crucially, did not destroy, a cyanobacterium-like organism with which it established a mutually beneficial bond. This symbiotic relationship provided energy in the form of sugars derived from photosynthesis (whereby sunlight is converted into chemical energy) from the cyanobacterium to its host.
  • 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.
  • Red tide may be 'natural' but scientists believe coastal pollution is making it worse
    Vince Lovko, a phytoplantkon ecologist at Mote Marine Lab, crisscrossed the waters off Longboat Key in his lab's Yellowfin fishing boat with a crew of researchers, sampling sea water from a red tide that has slushed around Southwest Florida for nearly a year and littered beaches with dead manatees, sea turtles and rotting marine life.
  • 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.
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    Anyone who has experienced jet lag knows the power of the biological clock. Almost all organisms, from humans to the smallest of bacteria, have a built-in system that tells them whether it is time to rest or to be active. Most biological clocks 'tick' autonomously, but some bacteria depend on light to synchronize their clock every day. Using mathematical calculations, researchers from AMOLF and the University of Michigan have now demonstrated that an autonomous clock suffers far less from noise, such as fluctuations in sunlight due to clouds. The research results were published online on August 14th, 2018, in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.
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    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.
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    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.
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    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.
  • Veterinary toxicologist warns of blue-green algae dangers to livestock, pets
    Summertime is known for its heat. Add some rainy days to the mix, and this combination can be the recipe for the development of blue-green algae, according to a toxicologist at the Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, a part of Kansas State University's College of Veterinary Medicine.
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    The search for life on Mars has taken a step forward with the NASA Curiosity rover's discovery of organic matter on the bottom of what was once a lake. It may once have been part of an alien life form or it might have a non-biological origin – either way this carbon would have provided a food source for any organic living thing in the vicinity.
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    Succinate is widely used as a raw ingredient for petrochemicals, and there is high demand for a way of producing succinate that is renewable and environmentally benign. A Japanese researcher has discovered that succinate production levels increase when cyanobacteria is grown above the ideal temperature for cell growth. He used insights into the metabolic pathway engineering to achieve the world's most efficient production rate for bio-succinate.

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