Beacon Sensors

Project partners, Dr. Richard O'Kennedy (left) and Dr. Chris Elliot (right) receive an award as part of the BEACONS project at the US Ambassadors home in Dublin, Ireland

From UMaine News October 19, 2009: "Ireland-U.S. Partnership Funds UMaine Algal Toxin Research"

The BEACONS project aims to develop novel strategies for the isolation and detection of algae from both seawater (Alexandrium - see Algal Bloom Detection Project Page) and freshwater (Microcystis) and their associated toxins, that are of significant concern as environmental and food contaminants. In Maine, the alga Alexandrium is commonly called red tide and is responsible for extensive closures of shellfish harvests.

Paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) caused by consumption of shellfish that have fed on the toxic alga Alexandrium remains a major health concern throughout North American coastal areas. As increasing numbers of people live in immediate proximity to the ocean, the risk of exposure to this natural hazard also grows. Microcystis contains toxins that are increasingly found reservoirs and lakes used for drinking water.

The consortium of partners (including Dr. O'Kennedy and Dr. Chris Elliot of Ireland, see collaborators page), assembled as a result of the U.S.-Ireland Partnership initiative, has complementary expertise in sample handling, marine and fresh water environmental research, assay development – using antibodies, peptide nucleic acids and receptors/channels, microfluidics, sensor assay generation and associated applications.

The project is specifically designed to strategically exploit this combined expertise to tackle major algal toxin problems that are common to the U.S. and Ireland. A highly innovative sample collection/concentration system and a sensor-based prototype system, with industrial input from Precision Photonics Corporation, a U.S. company, will be developed. Regular meetings and exchanges of staff and students between the partner institutions are planned that will foster training, education and outreach.


The Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute recently achieves autonomous detection of a harmful algal bloom.


Project funded by:

National Science Foundation, Science Foundation Ireland, Invest Northern Ireland Department for Employment and Learning

©  2012, Laurie Connell - University of Maine - A Member of the University of Maine System