WHOI/MIT Sea Grant has awarded Prof. Jefferson Turner $150,000 to study the toxic dinoflagellate Cochlodinium polykrikoides, which has been increasing in frequency of blooms in Buzzards Bay over the last decade. Although unrecorded in previous published Buzzards Bay plankton studies, this fish-killing species has been forming massive blooms with “rust-colored” water discoloration in the northern Bay in August and September in the last few years.
Prof. Turner’s Biological Oceanography/Plankton Ecology Laboratory at UMass Dartmouth (Biology Department and SMAST) has been monitoring Buzzards Bay monthly since 1987. Their study has produced almost 27 years of archived samples for plankton community composition and abundance and water quality parameters. Analysis of these samples can address the question of what causes the observed Cochlodinium blooms.
By working backward from the present, and focusing on samples from late summer-early fall in the northern portions of Buzzards Bay, the investigators hope to determine when Cochlodinium first appeared in the Bay. They will also continue monitoring the Bay to illuminate the winter, spring and early summer nutrient and hydrographic conditions that set the stage for what now appear to be annual late-summer/early-fall blooms.