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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  • Tracking the viral parasites of giant viruses over time
    In freshwater lakes, microbes regulate the flow of carbon and determine if the bodies of water serve as carbon sinks or carbon sources. Algae and cyanobacteria in particular can trap and use carbon, but their capacity to do so may be impacted by viruses. Viruses exist amidst all bacteria, usually in a 10-fold excess, and are made up of various sizes ranging from giant viruses, to much smaller viruses known as virophages (which live in giant viruses and use their machinery to replicate and spread.) Virophages can change the way a giant virus interacts with its host eukaryotic cell. For example, if algae are co-infected by a virophage and giant virus, the virophage limits the giant virus' ability to replicate efficiently. This reduces the impact a giant virus has on the diversion of nutrients, allowing the host algae to multiply, which could lead to more frequent algal blooms.
  • Identifying a new family of light-responsive proteins
    When Han Bao started looking for a new cyanobacteria species to study, she had no idea that the perfect candidate was just upstairs.
  • Improving Lake Erie's water quality
    The conditions in Lake Erie continue to pose several health risks to Ohioans in coastal communities, making it difficult to maintain good water quality for citizens, state and local policymakers.
  • Clear lakes disguise impaired water quality
    Looks can be deceiving. Look at a hundred lakes in the agricultural heartland of the United States and you will likely see green lakes surrounded by green fields. The nitrogen and phosphorus in agricultural fertilizers that help crops grow also fuel the growth of algae and cyanobacteria that in excess can turn lakes the color of pea soup.
  • New high-throughput sequencing technologies uncover a world of interacting microorganisms
    Your body teems with them—100 trillion microbes in your gut, lungs, mouth, and skin. Your home swarms with them—in toilets and sinks, on tables and chairs, in the carpet, and on your dog. Even the ground on which you stand abounds with countless bacteria, fungi, protozoa, algae, and viruses—all microscopic, all part of a community of organisms interacting with one another and the environment. These communities and the environments with which they interact are known as "microbiomes," and our growing understanding of them is changing the way we treat diseases, grow crops, and create everyday products.
  • Microbes dictate regime shifts causing anoxia in lakes and seas
    Gradual environmental changes due to eutrophication and global warming can cause a rapid depletion of oxygen levels in lakes and coastal waters. A new study led by professors Jef Huisman and Gerard Muyzer of the University of Amsterdam (UvA) shows that microorganisms play a key role in these disastrous regime shifts. The researchers' findings were published in the journal Nature Communications on 6 October.
  • Biosensor for heavy metals
    A team of Empa scientists has developed a biosensor which allows them to detect elevated concentrations of copper in a simple, quick and economic way. Copper, like other heavy metals is problematic in high concentrations, both for the environment and for human health.
  • Turning the evolutionary clock back on a light-sensitive protein
    We are inching closer to using light to help cure diseases. The key is harnessing the power of proteins that are sensitive to light.
  • Changes in Earth's crust caused oxygen to fill the atmosphere
    Scientists have long wondered how Earth's atmosphere filled with oxygen. UBC geologist Matthijs Smit and research partner Klaus Mezger may have found the answer in continental rocks that are billions of years old.
  • Biologists discover carotenoid transfer between two proteins
    Specialists from the biological faculty of Moscow State University have studied how the photoactive orange carotenoid protein (OCP) exchanges carotenoid with proteins of similar structure. The discovery will boost the development of OCP-based antioxidant drugs aimed at protecting healthy cells during cancer treatment. The paper was published in the Biophysical Journal.
  • Team shines new light on photosynthesis
    A team of scientists from ASU's School of Molecular Sciences and Pennsylvania State University has taken us a step closer to unlocking the secrets of photosynthesis, and possibly to cleaner fuels.
  • Your sunscreen may be polluting the ocean – but algae could offer a natural alternative
    An estimated 6,000-14,000 tons of sunscreen are deposited into coral reef areas of the sea every year. The chemicals we rub onto our skin might help prevent skin cancer but we're only just beginning to understand the environmental impact of sunscreen – and the initial assessments are not looking good. But early stage research suggests that nature might provide a solution to this emerging problem if we can mimic the way that some plants and animals protect themselves from the sun.
  • Method speeds up time to analyze complex microscopic images
    Cryo-electron tomography permits researchers to study in detail the microscopic structures inside of cells. Researchers who typically required a week of effort to dissect the 3-D structure of a single cell will now be able to do it in about an hour thanks to a new automated method developed by a team of scientists at Baylor College of Medicine and the National University of Singapore. The new method will allow scientists to study a large number and a variety of cell types in significantly less time, leading to a more detailed understanding of cellular processes and disease. The report appears in the journal Nature Methods.
  • Photosynthesis discovery could help design more efficient artificial solar cells
    A natural process that occurs during photosynthesis could lead to the design of more efficient artificial solar cells, according to researchers at Georgia State University.
  • New study provides high-resolution insights into plants' light harvesting process under low light
    Photosynthesis is a biological process mediating the conversion of solar energy into chemical energy. Oxygenic photosynthesis performed by plants, algae and cyanobacteria is one of the most amazing chemical reactions on the planet. It provides food and energy for nearly all living organisms, and also contributes to the formation of the atmosphere and maintenance of the carbon-oxygen balance on the earth.
  • Turning human waste into plastic, nutrients could aid long-distance space travel
    Imagine you're on your way to Mars, and you lose a crucial tool during a spacewalk. Not to worry, you'll simply re-enter your spacecraft and use some microorganisms to convert your urine and exhaled carbon dioxide (CO2) into chemicals to make a new one. That's one of the ultimate goals of scientists who are developing ways to make long space trips feasible.
  • Biofuels from bacteria
    You might not cook with this sugar, but from a biofuels standpoint, it's pretty sweet. A Bay Area company has patented a group of three single-celled, algae-like organisms that, when grown together, can produce high quantities of sugar just right for making biofuels. Sandia National Laboratories is helping HelioBioSys Inc. learn whether farming them on a large scale would be successful.
  • Climate change projected to significantly increase harmful algal blooms in US freshwaters
    Harmful algal blooms known to pose risks to human and environmental health in large freshwater reservoirs and lakes are projected to increase because of climate change, according to a team of researchers led by a Tufts University scientist.
  • The origin of the chloroplast
    A new study, led by the University of Bristol, has shed new light on the origin, timing and habitat in which the chloroplast first evolved.
  • Image: Thirty year-old microbiology experiment
    This humble parcel-sized hardware is Europe's very first closed-loop life-support experiment to fly in space, 30 years ago this week.
  • This enzyme enabled life to conquer a hostile earth
    Computers are simulating the ancestral versions of the most common protein on Earth, giving scientists an unparalleled look at early life's development of harnessing energy from the Sun and production of oxygen.
  • A new picture emerges on the origins of photosynthesis in a sun-loving bacteria
    Every day, enough sunlight hits the Earth to power the planet many times over—if only we could more efficiently capture all the energy.
  • New robotic lab tracking toxicity of Lake Erie algal bloom
    A new research tool to safeguard drinking water is now keeping a watchful eye on Lake Erie. This week, a robotic lake-bottom laboratory began tracking the levels of dangerous toxins produced by cyanobacteria that bloom each summer in the lake's western basin.
  • How to build an artificial nano-factory to power our futures
    Many bacteria contain little factories for different purposes. They can make sugars from carbon dioxide to fuel life, or digest certain compounds that would be toxic for the cell, if the digestion took place outside of these factories.
  • Nanotechnology reveals hidden depths of bacterial 'machines'
    New research from the University of Liverpool, published in the journal Nanoscale, has probed the structure and material properties of protein machines in bacteria, which have the capacity to convert carbon dioxide into sugar through photosynthesis.
  • A small RNA molecule in cyanobacteria affects metabolic acclimation
    International researchers working in collaboration with Professor Wolfgang R. Hess and Dr. Jens Georg, both from the University of Freiburg's Faculty of Biology, have discovered a small RNA molecule that plays a key role in how cyanobacteria adjust their metabolism to the amount of iron available in the environment. Oxygenic photosynthesis – in which plants, algae and cyanobacteria generate oxygen and harvest solar energy for the synthesis of organic matter – is a process that depends on iron. When only low amounts of iron are available, cyanobacteria are able to reduce their photosynthetic activity by using what the researchers are calling IsaR1, which stands for "iron stress activated RNA 1." The team of researchers have published their findings in the latest issue of Current Biology.
  • Rising carbon dioxide levels, ocean acidity may change crucial marine process
    Climate change may be putting cyanobacteria that are crucial to the functioning of the ocean at risk as the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increases and the acidity of ocean water changes.
  • Optimizing cyanobacteria for biofuel production
    Cyanobacteria have attracted significant attention as potential biocatalysts for production of clean energy and green chemicals from sunlight and atmospheric CO2. A recent study investigated effects of altering large cellular complexes called phycobilisomes, which cyanobacteria use to efficiently capture light energy for photosynthesis, to guide development of optimal strategies for biofuel production.
  • Study: Early organic carbon got deep burial in mantle
    Rice University petrologists who recreated hot, high-pressure conditions from 60 miles below Earth's surface have found a new clue about a crucial event in the planet's deep past.
  • Photosynthesis in the dark? Unraveling the mystery of algae evolution
    Scientists have long studied which of the three primary photosynthetic eukaryotes (red algae, green algae, and glaucophytes) has come into existence first to unravel the biological mystery of algae evolution by analyzing their genetic information.

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