Actual toxic algae cells from St. Lucie River algae disaster in Florida

Actual toxic algae cells from St. Lucie River algae disaster in Florida, July, 2016, as imaged on FlowCam Cyano instrumentation.

The water sample taken from the St. Lucie River near the coastline of Ft. Pierce, Florida was loaded with blue-green algae when it arrived in Ben Spaulding’s lab in Scarborough, Maine. As laboratory manager for Fluid Imaging Technologies, Mr. Spaulding ran the thick, green sample through the company’s FlowCam Cyano to determine the types of algae that have devastated the Florida coastline and triggered a state of emergency.

The FlowCam Cyano automatically detects, images and identifies thousands of individual algal cells in a sample in minutes and differentiates the toxic cyanobacteria from the harmless algal cells. Proprietary software allows further characterization using 30 different parameters involving size, shape and color.

While the St. Lucie River water may ordinarily include dozens of different species of algal cells, the FlowCam Cyano revealed the entire water sample to be dominated by a single species of blue-green algae called Microcystis and identified it as the culprit in Florida’s state of emergency.

“It’s very common for one species of cyanobacteria to take over a body of water to the exclusion of other species,” said Harry Nelson, vice president, aquatic markets. “Algae blooms happen very quickly, so it’s important to understand the conditions that invite algae growth and monitor the water with an early detection system.”

Since cyanobacteria such as Microcystis also bloom in public drinking water reservoirs and their presence can affect the taste, odor and safety of the water, more than 50 municipalities throughout the United States use the FlowCam Cyano as an early warning system to detect the presence and track the growth of cyanobacteria and other noxious algae. With early detection, the algae may be treated before a potentially dangerous algal bloom ensues.

—supplied by Fluid Imaging Technologies