Video | Business Headlines | Internet | Science | Scientific Ethics | Technology | Search

 


Getting on top of toxin production


Wednesday 31 October, 2012

Getting on top of toxin production

University of Waikato ecologist Professor David Hamilton has been awarded a $920,000 Marsden Grant to study toxin production found in blue-green algae in lakes.

His research project is titled “Toxic in crowds: the triggers of toxin production in planktonic cyanobacteria”. Cyanobacteria are commonly called blue-green algae. Some species can produce potent toxins which affect humans through drinking water or contact recreation, as well as other organisms that live in the water. Blue-green algae are stimulated to grow and form blooms by increasing levels of nutrients.

Recent records of increases in nutrient loads to lakes are therefore of particular concern, both from an environmental point of view and for human health considerations. Professor Hamilton and his colleagues, including Dr Susie Wood from Cawthron in Nelson, have found that when blue-green algae congregate into dense blooms they can rapidly ramp up the rate of toxin production. “This project will try to understand why blue-green algae produce toxins and what specific triggers make the blue-green algae increase toxin production when they form blooms.”

Professor Hamilton is one of six Waikato academics who received Marsden Grants totalling $3.6 million in the latest round of funding, which is administered by the Royal Society of New Zealand on behalf of the Marsden Fund Council, and funded by the New Zealand Government.

He has been researching aspects of water quality for more than 20 years and is currently part of a team that is trialling an aeration device on Lake Rotoehu, pumping oxygen into the water to counteract the harm done by nutrients and sediment that have leached or run off into the lake.

“Blooms of blue-green algae are increasing across the globe and scientists are trying to understand why. One culprit may be intensification of agricultural land leading to more nutrients to fuel blooms of blue-green algae. Another may be climate change since many lakes across the globe have warmed by 1-2 degrees Celsius over the past two decades; even more rapidly than increases in air temperature.”

Blue-green algae are favoured by higher temperatures because they originate from bacteria which grow more rapidly than other algae at elevated temperatures. The Marsden funding will help to identify both the causes of blue-green algal blooms and the relationship of blooms to toxin production. “Ultimately it is hoped that the outcomes of the project will improve knowledge of how to manage the occurrence of blue-green algal blooms and avoid the possibility of toxin production by them.”

Professor Hamilton, the Bay of Plenty Regional Council Chair in Lake Restoration, also works internationally sharing information with researchers from other countries as they seek long-term solutions that can be applied to any freshwater lake system.

He is chief scientist for Lake Ecosystem Restoration New Zealand (LERNZ) - a ten-year $10 million initiative to identify and remediate threats to lake ecosystems. Through LERNZ computer models are being developed that can be used for prediction and management, and the model outputs are being adopted by regional councils and policy makers to assist in future planning of lake restoration.

“Our LERNZ group also has buoys in nine lakes in New Zealand, China and Singapore that send out readings every fifteen minutes, so we’re getting immediate and accurate information and can respond quickly if we see dramatic changes in water quality. The benefit to working internationally is that you can collate data, share information, knowledge, software and hardware amongst like-minded scientists across the globe.” Related to this, Professor Hamilton was one of the founding members of GLEON, the Global Lakes Ecological Observatory Network, which now has more than 350 members worldwide who are making high-frequency measurements in lakes.

This year, Professor Hamilton won the environmental scientist category at the Waikato Kudos Awards held to acknowledge scientific achievement.

ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines

 

Must Sell 20 Petrol Stations: Z Cleared To Buy Caltex Assets

Z Energy is allowed to buy the Caltex and Challenge! petrol station chains but must sell 19 of its retail sites and one truck-stop, the Commerce Commission has ruled in a split decision that acknowledges possible retail price coordination between fuel retailers occurs in some regions. More>>

ALSO:

Huntly: Genesis Extends Life Of Coal-Fuelled Power Station To 2022

Genesis Energy will keep its two coal and gas-fired units at Huntly Power Station operating until 2022, having previously said they'd be closed by 2018, after wringing a high price from other electricity generators who wanted to keep them as back-up. More>>

ALSO:

Dammed If You Do: Ruataniwha Irrigation Scheme Hits Farmer Uptake Targets

Enough Hawke's Bay farmers have signed up for water from the proposed Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme for it to go ahead as long as a cornerstone institutional capital investor can be found to back it, its regional council promoter announced. More>>

ALSO:

Reserve Bank: OCR Stays At 2.25%

Reserve Bank governor Graeme Wheeler kept the official cash rate at 2.25 percent, in a decision traders had said could go either way, while predicting inflation will pick up as the slump in oil prices washes out of the data and capacity pressures start to build in the economy. More>>

ALSO:

Export Values Down: NZ Posts Biggest Annual Trade Deficit In 7 Years

New Zealand has recorded its biggest annual trade deficit since April 2009, reflecting weaker prices of agricultural commodities such as dairy products, beef and lamb, and increased imports of vehicles and machinery. More>>

ALSO:

Currency Events: NZ's New $5 Note Wins International Banknote Award

New Zealand’s new Brighter Money $5 note has been named Banknote of the Year in a prestigious international competition. The $5 note was awarded the IBNS Banknote of the Year title at the International Bank Note Society’s annual meeting. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sci-Tech
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news