Brian Bill, NOAA NWFSC

 IMG_9623Mission Scientist, Marine Biotoxins Program, NOAA Northwest Fisheries Science Center

Bio: I’m an oceanographer whose research focuses on the impacts of harmful algal blooms (HABs). My HAB research spans several focus areas including: the accumulation and effects of algal toxins in shellfish, finfish, marine mammals and seabirds; ecology, taxonomy, and culturing of HABs; and outreach and education efforts (here in the Pacific Northwest, but also in developing nations like Guatemala, Indonesia and the Philippines). I obtained my B.S. from the University of Washington and M.S. in Marine Biology from San Francisco State University, where I studied toxigenic diatoms under the supervision of Dr. William Cochlan at the Romberg Tiburon Center (RTC). I returned to Seattle to continue working with Dr. Vera Trainer at the NOAA NWFSC, and for reasons unknown, am referred to as the ‘librarian’ when at sea. I’m joined on this cruise by two other graduates of the Cochlan Phytoplankton Ecophysiology Lab (and longtime colleagues), Chris Ikeda (RTC-SFSU) and Julian Herndon (NOAA PMEL).

What I’m doing on this cruise: Chris Ikeda and I will be studying how a variety of environmental factors– temperature, salinity, light and ocean pH – affect the success and toxicity the harmful algal bloom organism, Pseudo-nitzschia.  This phytoplankton caused millions of dollars of economic loss to the US west coast in 2015 (and 2016) through the closure of razor clam, Dungeness crab and rock crab harvest, and also poisoned numerous marine mammals. We want to understand why the 2015 bloom was so severe, and why Pseudo-nitzschia has been so successful lately.  We’re excited to be testing the role of environmental factors on natural populations of Pseudo-nitzschia in the “real world”, as most of these types of experiments are usually performed in the lab with cultured populations. The knowledge we gain will support the development of predictive models of Pseudo-nitzschia growth and toxin production that will help managers safeguard commercial and recreational fisheries along the North American west coast.

Going phytoplankton hunting!