Research Assistant

Sheila O'DeaName
Sheila O’Dea

Research Assistant

Ecosystem Assessment and Restoration – Harmful Algal Blooms – Toxin and Molecular Ecology Laboratory

B.Sc. Marine Science, National University of Ireland
M.S. Biological Oceanography, University of South Florida

Research Interests
Harmful algae, phytoplankton ecology, effects of phycotoxins on marine organisms, molecular ecology and taxonomy of phytoplankton

Current Activity
I participate in interdisciplinary collaborations to better understand the ecology, toxicity and diversity of harmful algal bloom species. One of the projects I work on in the Toxins Lab focuses on the bioaccumulation of brevetoxins, produced by the dinoflagellate Karenia brevis, in seagrasses, fish and marine mammals (e.g., dolphins and manatees). I use biological and chemical analytical techniques such as enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA) and liquid chromatography mass spectrometry (LCMS) for toxin detection. I am currently working with Dr. Katherine Hubbard in the Molecular Ecology Lab to develop novel molecular methods to identify Pseudo-nitzschia species in Florida and the Gulf of Mexico proper.

For my Master’s thesis, I studied the distribution and toxicity of species within the marine diatom genus Pseudo-nitzschia in Florida’s coastal waters. Many of these species are capable of producing a neurotoxin called domoic acid (DA) which can be harmful to humans and marine wildlife. Humans are susceptible to a syndrome known as amnesic shellfish poisoning (ASP), resulting from the consumption of shellfish contaminated with DA. Additionally, mass mortalities of marine wildlife can occur as a result of exposure to toxigenic blooms of Pseudo-nitzschia. Since little is known aboutPseudo-nitzschiaand DA in Florida, it is important to further characterize the population dynamics of Pseudo-nitzschia species in Florida waters to assess the potential for future occurrence of ASP or DA poisoning events in this region.

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