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About CiguaHAB


An international team of experts from universities and laboratories around the Greater Caribbean Region has been assembled to investigate the conditions that lead to CFP outbreaks and create a model which will lead towards a better predictive capability and assist in elucidating the effects of global warming and other climatic or environmental perturbations on this important public health phenomenon. In additional to Michael Parsons (Florida Gulf Coast University), the team includes Don Anderson and Mindy Richlen (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution), Deana Erdner (University of Texas Marine Science Institute), Ron Kiene (University of South Alabama), Yuri Okolodkov (University of Veracruz, Mexico), Alison Robertson (Food and Drug Administration Gulf Coast Seafood Laboratory), and Tyler Smith (University of the Virgin Islands).

The primary objectives of this research are to:

  • Characterize Gambierdiscus population diversity and connectivity on regional and local scales.
  • Determine effects of environmental factors on the growth and toxicity of representative strains of Gambierdiscus.
  • Investigate Gambierdiscus population dynamics and the environmental conditions that contribute to blooms in several locations for the study region.
  • Investigate the fate of ciguatera precursors, toxins and metabolites in the coral reef food web.
  • Model the population dynamics and toxin production of Gambierdiscus under different environmental forcings, including those associated with natural and human-induced perturbations such as pollution, reef destruction, and climate change.
  • Communicate project results and discuss applications to resource management with stakeholders in the GCR.

Field studies will take place at seven locations throughout the northern portion of the Greater Caribbean region (GCR). These sites were chosen to encompass the entire study region and to include areas known to host CFP outbreaks.

CFP is the most significant of all HAB poisoning syndromes in terms of numbers of illnesses and impacts on human health. It has not, however, been the subject of major research initiatives in the U.S., in part because of technical and logistical impediments, in addition to the scattered and independent nature of the ciguatera community. Here we have assembled a team of investigators with the breadth of experience and skills needed to undertake a coordinated, regional ECOHAB program on CFP in the GCR, an area with an undocumented, but presumably high level of connectivity and similarity between geographically separated populations. CiguaHAB will take advantage of new tools and approaches to studies of the genetic connections between local and regionally dispersed populations of Gambierdiscus, trophic biotransformations and transfer of gambiertoxin precursors and ciguatoxins, and linkages between coral reef health, the environment, and Gambierdiscus abundance. Development of a model of bloom dynamics and toxin production is central to this effort, which will provide information of clear management value. This model will lead towards a predictive capability that may assist in elucidating the effects of global warming and other climactic or environmental perturbations on this important public health issue.


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