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Project Plan

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Monitoring | Data Analysis | Tools | Outreach

The ORHAB project has four essential activities: monitoring,data analysis, new technologies and outreach.


Anthony Odell taking a net tow Monitoring focuses on the environmental conditions believed to be conducive to HABs. Federal, state, tribal, private, and academic researchers coordinate all stages and will incorporate new tools and methods into the monitoring plan. The ORHAB project will monitor plankton, toxins, and water quality along the WA coast to determine the environmental conditions associated with blooms of Pseudo-nitzschia species.

The working hypothesis is that phytoplankton blooms in water over the Washington continental shelf are the source of toxins in razor clams on coastal beaches. The precise timing of physical processes (currents, winds, upwelling, and downwelling) off the coast determines whether a toxic bloom will be advected into the nearshore region and be sustained there long enough for razor clams to become toxic. The project will determine the temporal and spatial distributions of Pseudo-nitzschia spp. and relate these to hydrological and meteorological parameters using standard oceanographic and biological methods.

Data Analysis

In Washington state, domoic acid severely impacted the recreational and commercial harvest of razor clams- a significant economic contributor to the southwest counties of the state. A portion of the ORHAB project is to analyze past and current data. In 1991 we became aware of the problem of domoic acid on the west coast of North America. Our data analysis will focus on the years from 1991 - onward and will determine correlations, if any, between chemical, biological, and physical data in order to search for potential seasonal trends. Data will be used to construct a predictive model that will be useful to the risk management partners.

New Tools and Technologies

Current testing methods are costly and time-consuming. Since our understanding of the causes and occurrences of these toxic "blooms" of Pseudo-nitzschia is limited, testing and monitoring must be continuous, a factor that makes these programs costly to implement and maintain. Time delays between collection and analysis has produced costly market recalls for some shellfish operations and has exposed tribal members who rely on shellfish harvest for subsistence to a risk of poisoning. A major goal of ORHAB is the the development and implementation of rapid detection technologies to complement current monitoring strategies to offer the best protection from human exposure to toxins.

In addition, the development of a solid risk management system will require a considerable amount of data and sampling. Sampling sites along the WA coast are distant not only between themselves but also distant from management headquarters. Sampling these sites frequently would impose considerable cost burdens on all the partners. In order to provide this necessary data, remote and automated sampling is required. Therefore, the development of new technologies for moorings that allow real-time automated sensing of cells and toxins is required.


ORHAB training classRegular meetings occur between ORHAB partners to review and modify the cooperative workplan to better serve the needs of managers. Research scientists have trained Olympic coast locals in all sampling protocols required for monitoring phytoplankton, domoic acid, and environmental parameters. The ORHAB partners also communicate with public interest groups, community leaders, and the general public about the value of long-term HAB monitoring along the Washington coast.


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