6th Cyanobacteria Workshop a resounding success
The 6th Australian and New Zealand Cyanobacteria Workshop was held at UNSW on 25-26th September 2018. The full program is available for download here . The Workshop was sponsored by Melbourne Water, the Victoria State Government and Water NSW. It was hosted by the UNSW Global Water Institute and the Water Research Centre in the flagship John Niland Scientia Building. There was a strong showing from the local academic community and from the water industry, with a total of 128 registered attendees and 33 oral presentations. The Workshop also had an international feel, headlined by keynote speakers from Brazil and South Africa, as well as delegates from Japan and Finland.
The Cyanobacteria Workshop touched on some of the key topics and unanswered questions relating to blue-green algae. Keynote speaker Sandra Azevedo opened the Workshop with a brief history of global toxic bloom events and described her own investigation into the tragic Caruaru incident. There was a heated discussion about the relative merits of genetic tools compared with traditional taxonomic approaches for identifying cyanobacteria. Philip Orr made a clear argument that the environment does not drive toxin production pathways, but rather that it selects for the dominant cyanobacterial species, which may then be toxic. Other delegates presented their own research into the key underlying question: why are some cyanobacterial species toxic?
On the second day, keynote speaker Mark Matthews opened a lively debate about the application of remote-sensing to cyanobacterial bloom monitoring; the general feeling was that this approach is valuable, but that data must be verified against traditional measurements for each individual water body. Reflectance spectroscopy and fluorometry were proposed as high-frequency bloom-monitoring solutions, while qPCR probes and improved immunoassays were suggested as alternatives to classical ELISA-based toxin detection. Michele Burford questioned the value of standard nutrient measurements to algal bloom prediction and asked: how should nutrients be measured going forward?
Delegates from Water NSW, SA Water and Seqwater presented developments in cyanobacterial risk assessment and identified the benefits and drawbacks of various bloom deterrence techniques available to the water industry. There was widespread agreement that closer collaboration between academic researchers and water industry practitioners was essential to delivering better solutions for cyanobacterial bloom management. This exciting field will continue to grow and develop until the community comes together again at the next Cyanobacteria Workshop hosted by the University of Western Australia.