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MBARI-Developed ESP Device To Track New England Algae
A three foot high robotic instrument that will be installed off New England's coast in this spring has the potential to change how scientists detect and study harmful ocean algae.

The environmental sample processor (ESP), developed by researchers at Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), samples seawater, filters out cells and breaks them apart to release their DNA and chemicals. It rapidly analyzes the DNA and specific chemicals to identify and count cells living in the ocean and transmits the information ashore in real time.

The first commercially built ESP, which will be used in New England waters by researchers with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), will act as both an observatory and an early-warning system, alerting researchers to the beginnings of blooms of Alexandrium fundyense, a toxin-producing single-celled algae. 

McLane Laboratories, manufacturer of the instrument, says researchers haved used Esps to detect bacteria and larval organisms, but could also be used to monitor sewage outfalls or pollution.

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