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Taxonomic Identification of Harmful Algae in U.S. Marine Waters


Course Description:

The Provasoli-Guillas National Center for Marine Algae and Microbiota (NCMA), with support from NOAA, is offering the 4th U.S. training course on the identification of harmful algae in the U.S. marine waters.  The course will be held August 12-22nd, 2019 (11th and 23rd are recommended travel days) at the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences Research and Education campus in East Boothbay, ME.  The course is designed for current local, state and federal government employees and academics involved in all aspects of harmful algal bloom (HAB) monitoring, research, and management.  This year the course has transitioned to a tuition-based course, although there is limited support from NOAA for some participants.  The tuition for this year’s course is $2,500 per student; this does not include travel to the course, but does include housing.  The application process, regardless of applicant category, is fully competitive and not all applicants will be selected to participate.  On the application form, there is a space to note if financial assistance is needed. It is anticipated that this course will run frequently, perhaps every year if there is sufficient demand, and so there will be future opportunities to take advantage of this training program.

CCMP1937 Bigelow Laboratory


Application Process:

Those interested in applying should click on the link below to download the application form and send the completed form to The submission deadline is March 8, 2019.  Applicants will be notified by April 5, 2019 of the status of their application.


Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) have negative impacts on human and environmental health and result in significant economic losses and are thus monitored and managed by local, state and federal agencies and studied by academic researchers.  Regardless of the stakeholder agency all have a common need for accurate and timely identification of HAB related organisms to the species level. 

The classic ‘gold-standard’ method of HAB detection is microscopic examination for HA species based on morphological characters.  However, there is an increasing need for comprehensive training in HAB identification for U.S. HAB managers, scientists and technicians due to the following:

    • rapidly expanding HAB taxonomy field
    • retirement of many ‘classical’ taxonomists
    • lack of dedicated U. S. HAB taxonomic training programs
    • increased use of more rapid, but less direct non-traditional (i.e. optical, molecular and hybrid) methods of HAB identification

In 2015, NOAA’s MERHAB (Monitoring and Event Response of Harmful Algal Blooms) Program initiated ‘MERHAB: Training Course on the Identification of Harmful Algae in United States Marine Waters’.  With the goal of developing and teaching a certified, recurring, and classical HA taxonomy and identification course, instructors will provide the theoretical and hands-on training needed to effectively and accurately identify HAB Species.  The course will draw upon the recognized scientific and teaching expertise of the established taxonomists involved.

 Course Content:

The program will consist of pre-course web preparatory modules and a 10-day course which will cover the following topics: 

    • identifying Bacillariophyceae, Dinophyceae, Prymnesiophyceae, Raphidophyceae, Dictyochophyceae and marine Cyanophyceae
    • collection techniques
    • statistical considerations
    • specialized lectures on newer HAB identification and quantification methodologies

 Course content will consist of:

    • training material handouts
    • lectures
    • hands on demonstrations with live and preserved species
    • demonstrations of methods for collection
    • treatment of samples
    • enumeration
    • culturing techniques 

Many HA species are either in the Provasoli-Guillard National Center for Marine Algae and Microbiota or available from the instructors. Over 60 HAB species will be demonstrated with many morphologically similar species for comparison and differentiation.  HA species will include only those found in US waters. Certificates of proficiency will be provided for successful completion of the course and final examination. Students will be encouraged to continue their learning and ongoing networking between fellow students and instructors facilitated through a course dedicated listserve.


Celia Vilac, Research Scientist (

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Michael Parsons, Professor (

Florida Gulf Coast University

Ian Probert, PhD (

Station Biologique de Roscoff

Mike Lomas, PhD

Director of the National Center for Marine Algae and Microbiota (NCMA) at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences

Peter Countway, PhD

Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences


Course Content Consultants:

Rita Horner, Professor

School of Oceanography, University of Washington

Karen Steidinger, PhD

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Carmelo Tomas, Professor

Center for Marine Science, University of North Carolina at Wilmington

Cynthia Heil, PhD

Director of the Mote Marine Laboratory Red Tide Institute


Thank you for your interest in the
Taxonomic Identification of Harmful Algae in U.S. Marine Waters
please click here for the APPLICATION








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