Abu Dhabi: A team of scientists including NYU Abu Dhabi Assistant Professor of Biology Shady Amin has been awarded a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) grant worth USD 4,999,505.
This grant will fund a five-year study to examine the roles various physical and biological factors play in intensifying and prolonging harmful algal blooms that occur annually off the Florida coast’s Gulf of Mexico (GoM) and the processes that lead to bloom termination. Harmful algal blooms (HABs) are phenomena that are increasingly observed in coastal waters throughout the world and are caused by the rapid growth of certain species of microscopic phytoplankton (single-celled algae) that are part of the normal composition of aquatic ecosystems. This rapid growth coupled with often toxin production by these algae causes major environmental, economic and health problems in coastal areas and current efforts by scientists and governmental agencies strive to understand the causes and ways to mitigate them.
The research team will accomplish these goals using climate and oceanographic modeling, laboratory experiments on model systems and data collected aboard several research cruises that will take place in the next five years. The multi-disciplinary team includes scientists from several institutions, including Cynthia Heil (Mote Marine Laboratory, Florida), Joaquin Martinez (Bigelow Marine Laboratory, Maine), Katherine Hubbard (Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, Florida), Robert Weisberg (University of South Florida), and Ming Li and Patricia Gilbert (University of Maryland).
Commenting on the grant, Amin said, “For the first time, this is a major effort supported by the US government that involves microbiologists, virologists, chemists, modelers and governmental monitoring agencies to tackle the annual blooms plaguing the US coastline. Being the only scientist on this highly competitive grant from outside the US is also a testament to the wonderful research taking place here at NYUAD. Understanding the factors influencing these blooms in the GoM will have direct application to blooms occurring here in the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman and perhaps some of our findings and solutions can be applied here in the future.”
Amin brings extensive experience in marine microbiology, phytoplankton ecology and metabolomics (Metabolomics is the large-scale study of small molecules). His research lab focuses on understanding microbial symbioses in aquatic environments with strong emphasis on how microbiomes of eukaryotes [organisms with clearly defined nuclei] influence cell physiology and evolution. His work also examines why and how harmful algal species proliferate in the Arabian Gulf and beyond.
Photo caption: An aerial view of a large harmful algal bloom in Lake Erie, September 2017. Photo credit- NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory
About National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
NOAA is an agency that enriches life through science. Our reach goes from the surface of the sun to the depths of the ocean floor as we work to keep the public informed of the changing environment around them.
From daily weather forecasts, severe storm warnings, and climate monitoring to fisheries management, coastal restoration and supporting marine commerce, NOAA’s products and services support economic vitality and affect more than one-third of America’s gross domestic product. NOAA’s dedicated scientists use cutting-edge research and high-tech instrumentation to provide citizens, planners, emergency managers and other decision makers with reliable information they need when they need it.
ECOHAB funds research to understand the causes and impacts of HABs and their toxins, which is fundamental to successful management and mitigation. It was authorized by the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Control Act (HABHRCA) in 1998 and reauthorized in 2004 and 2014.
ECOHAB is a national, competitive research funding program with two broad goals:
- Develop information and tools, predictive models and forecasts, and prevention strategies; and
- Learn how toxins are transferred across and up the food chain, including biosynthesis and metabolism of toxins, and assess the impacts of toxins on higher trophic levels.
- Research results guide management of coastal resources to reduce HAB development, impacts, and future threats and will feed into other HAB programs for development of tools to improve HAB management and response.
About NYU Abu Dhabi
NYU Abu Dhabi is the first comprehensive liberal arts and science campus in the Middle East to be operated abroad by a major American research university. NYU Abu Dhabi has integrated a highly-selective liberal arts, engineering and science curriculum with a world center for advanced research and scholarship enabling its students to succeed in an increasingly interdependent world and advance cooperation and progress on humanity’s shared challenges. NYU Abu Dhabi’s high-achieving students have come from 120 nations and speak over 120 languages. Together, NYU's campuses in New York, Abu Dhabi, and Shanghai form the backbone of a unique global university, giving faculty and students opportunities to experience varied learning environments and immersion in other cultures at one or more of the numerous study-abroad sites NYU maintains on six continents.
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