Fishing for toxins

Last week Dr. John Berry, associate professor within the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, did a talk at the Ocean Life Lecture Series in Key Largo discussing his research on toxic compounds from aquatic algae. His research has aided in the identification of new toxins, the analysis of toxins in marine and freshwater ecosystems, and in the assessment of both new and known toxins.

Dr. Berry

His talk began with an in-depth discussion on why harmful algal blooms occur and how they impact ecosystems in South Florida. He proceeded by explaining the different types of algal blooms people experience in this area, such as those caused by red tide or those caused by blue-green algae. As these harmful algal blooms become more and more prevalent, it is critical to understand how toxic algae and pollutants impact human and animal health.

To know more about the impacts of algal toxins, scientists need to be able to study them in a controlled environment. For this reason, Dr. Berry’s research uses the zebrafish, a small freshwater fish commonly used in biological studies, as a model to learn about the impacts of algal toxins on development. The zebrafish’s embryos, exposed to toxins from blue-green algae allow Berry and the rest of his research team to analyze the impacts of exposure to the toxin on the development of the embryos. This research has important implications for understanding the effects of algal toxins in human, animal and ecosystem health.

Next month’s Ocean Life lecture titled, “Light, Color, Vision, and the Underwater World” will be presented by Lorian Schweikert, Ph.D. and will explore the diversity of visual abilities found in marine animals and the implications that specialized vision has for scientists, engineers and anglers. The lecture will take place on April 25that the Murray Nelson Government Center in Key Largo. 

Learn more about the Ocean Life Lecture Series here.