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Hayley M. Skelton – Post-Doctoral Fellow: PhD, Marine Sciences, North Carolina State University, Raleigh; BS, Florida State University, Tallahassee

Project Title: Interactions between toxic Alexandrium spp. and micro-zooplankton: grazing dynamics and possible retention of PSP toxins
Mentors & Collaborators: Hans G. Dam, Gary H. Wikfors, George B. McManus

Summary: Microzooplankton, particularly dinoflagellates and ciliates, often are the most important grazers of marine phytoplankton; however, the interactions of these protists with harmful algal species are not well known.  This research focuses on the significance of dinoflagellates and ciliates as grazers of the toxic dinoflagellate species Alexandrium fundyense and A. tamarense.  Protist grazing is being evaluated as a function of the toxicity of the Alexandrium isolates, and the effects of allelopathic compounds produced by Alexandrium is being considered.  The influence of grazer geographic origin on grazing dynamics also is being assessed.  In addition, dinoflagellate and ciliate grazers are being examined for retention of PSP toxins.  Grazers play an integral role in the formation and termination of harmful algal blooms, and therefore it is important to characterize and understand the interactions between Alexandrium spp. and potential grazers.  Further, by defining possible routes of toxin transfer, the species exposed to these harmful compounds, as well as the potential implications for human and animal health, can be identified with increased accuracy. 

Future Directions: I plan to pursue a career in academia and would like to develop a research program in aquatic microbial ecology with an emphasis on protists.