Narrator: This is Science Today. Ocean scientists at the University of California, Santa Cruz are studying the phenomenon of toxic algae in the coastal zone. Mary Silver, an internationally-recognized leader in biological oceanography, says these microscopic phytoplankton are responsible for causing shellfish poisoning syndrome.
Silver: When shellfish, which filter-feed and remove particles from the water take them into their bodies, they hold on to some of these toxins for periods. Often very briefly, but sometimes up to weeks or months. And then people who consume the shellfish with those toxins in them could get sick and the sickness could be very mild to life-threatening.
Narrator: Monitoring systems are set up across the nation to detect them. But Silver says thanks to technology, a new era of molecular monitoring is on the way.
Silver: So that the genes of the species responsible for poisoning can be recognized at sea, as the organism starts to increase in abundance, we'll actually have almost real time measures.
Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.