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National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Team
Department of Commerce

Dr. Gregory Doucette
Dr. Timothy Davis
Dr. Stephanie Moore

Dr. Gregory Doucette

Dr. Timothy Davis

Dr. Stephanie Moore


Dr. Gregory Doucette, Dr. Timothy Davis and Dr. Stephanie Moore are being honored for radically advancing rapid and remote detection of harmful algal bloom toxins. A state-of-the-art, robotic Environmental Sample Processor (ESP) was developed, validated, and deployed, and for the first time, transmitted near-real-time measurements of toxins in water.

Managers now use the ESP to ensure delivery of safe drinking water in Lake Erie and access to safe seafood in Washington State. Applications elsewhere are now coming online. This cutting-edge technology markedly advances the protection of economic and public health in U.S. coastal communities.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientists joined forces to proactively develop and deploy two ESPs: one upstream of a drinking water intake in Lake Erie, and the other near an open-ocean harmful algal bloom “hot-spot” off of Washington State. The group developed, validated, and implemented novel and reliable sensors for the ESP that are capable of remotely detecting algal toxins at parts-per-trillion levels. The group procured and deployed the robotic platforms and engineered moorings for near-real-time data analysis and transmission from shallow lake and deep ocean sites.

The deployments were the first ever to report toxin levels at surface and drinking water intake depths in near-real-time, ensuring safe drinking water for millions of customers and preventing the loss of millions of dollars due to water supply shutdowns. The deployments enabled the first near-real-time monitoring of the offshore sources of toxins that contaminate wild and farmed shellfish on the Washington coast. In 2017, these data contributed to an increase in the daily catch of razor clams, injecting over $5.3 million into the local economy.

A state-of-the-art, robotic Environmental Sample Processor (ESP) was developed, validated, and deployed, and for the first time, transmitted near-real-time measurements of toxins in water.”

Informed, proactive decision-making will accelerate in the short term with coastal intelligence provided at far greater resolution and immediacy. Two new Lake Erie ESPs will increase yearly deployments from two to six. Pacific Northwest deployments will be strategically set to follow the two seasonal bloom scenarios, a spring deployment at Heceta Bank and a fall deployment in the Juan de Fuca Eddy.

The success of this effort positions toxin sensors to provide adaptive and intelligent operations within fixed mooring stations and fleets of autonomous underwater vehicles. The long-term impact of expanding and mobilizing these smart sensors accelerates the Department’s strategy to advance sophisticated ocean and coastal intelligence that strengthen resilience of communities.

Additionally, this technology supports the Environmental Protection Agency’s ’s mandate to protect clean drinking water, and NOAA and US Department of Agriculture’s mandates to develop marine aquaculture. In addition, the Exposure Science in the 21st Century Federal Working Group, comprised of 20 different federal organizations, is interested in applying this technology for other waterborne chemical and biological threats as part of an intelligent sensor network.