The PNWTOX project combines results from the Ecology and Oceanography of Harmful Algal Blooms in the Pacific Northwest (ECOHAB PNW) and River Influences on Shelf Ecosystems (RISE), two recently completed inter-disciplinary studies jointly funded by NSF and NOAA, to improve predictability of the arrival of harmful algal blooms (HABs) on Washington and Oregon beaches. Results from the prior studies suggest that lack of understanding of the effects of the freshwater plume originating from the Columbia River on circulation pathways and mixing is the greatest impediment to understanding how HABs arrive at the coast. The PNWTOX project will focus on the toxigenic Pseudo-nitzschia, a diatom that can produce domoic acid, resulting in Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning when ingested, as well as other species of HABs for which more limited data are available.

PNWTOX investigators will study the transport of HABs to the Washington coast from both northern (Juan de Fuca eddy region, northern Washington) and southern (Heceta Bank, central Oregon) HAB hotspots to develop a HAB forecasting ability so that harvest closures for razor clams, other shellfish and Dungeness crabs can be minimized.