Aquatic Health Program


Microcystis is a toxic cyanobacterium that forms harmful algal blooms (HABs) in temperate and tropical waters throughout the world. The World Health Organization recognizes its impact on ecosystems and its ability to pose a threat to both animal (wild and domestic) and human health. The HAB has been identified in the San Francisco Estuary and has been suggested as a factor leading the dramatic decline in pelagic fish populations in that region.

Microcystis is being cultured to determine what environmental factors affect the growth and toxicity of the bloom. The direct effects of the bloom on copepods and fish are being investigated. Linking the presence of the HAB to declines in fish populations is an important step in managing this cyanobacterium to protect animals, humans and the environment.

Current Projects:

  • Dietary effects of Microcystis aeruginosa on threadfin shad, Sacramento splittail, and delta smelt
  • DNA barcoding and qPCR of harmful cyanobacteria blooms in Clear Lake and the San Francisco Bay Delta
  • Effects of key environmental factors on the growth and toxicity of Microcystis aeruginosa under controlled environmental conditions


Photo: Dolores V. Baxa, Associate Project Scientist

Dolores V. Baxa, Associate Project Scientist

Infectious diseases among cultured and wild fish populations.
Key interplay between infectious diseases and toxicants and their impacts to fish health in the aquatic environment.


Photo: Shawn C. Acuna, Postdoctoral Researcher

Shawn C. Acuna, Postdoctoral Researcher

The combined effects of environment, toxicants and nutrition, along with the impacts of anthropogenic or natural toxins on the health and ecology of estuarine fish e.g. Largemouth bass (Macropterus salmoides).