'Pfiesteria' expert to open UD ocean lecture series
Vol. 17, No. 22March 5, 1998

'Pfiesteria' expert to open UD ocean lecture series

The College of Marine Studies and Sea Grant College Program are sponsoring the Year of the Ocean Lunch and Lecture Series in Wilmington this spring, as part of activities celebrating the International Year of the Ocean. The special series, to be held at the Hotel du Pont, will feature renowned ocean scientists sharing their research on topics ranging from the fish-killing microbe, Pfiesteria, to El Niño.

Opening the series on Wednesday, March 18, JoAnn M. Burkholder, North Carolina State University botanist and the world's leading expert on Pfiesteria, will present "Get the Facts about Pfiesteria."

This mysterious single-celled organism has been found in nutrient-rich estuaries from Delaware's Indian River Bay to the Gulf of Mexico. It can release toxins that immobilize fish. Then, it begins to feed on its prey, often leaving round, bleeding sores on the fish's belly. Pfiesteria has been implicated in several large fish kills in North Carolina. Last year, it caused a major fish kill in Maryland's Pocomoke River. Delaware's Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control collected water samples including several from the Indian River Bay that showed toxic forms of Pfiesteria in numbers considered sufficient to harm aquatic life, but no fish kills have occurred.

In addition to its effects on fish, researchers are studying Pfiesteria to determine what risk it poses to human health.

In April, D. James Baker, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and an expert on El Niño, has been invited to speak. The series will conclude on May 19, with a presentation on "Sea Change: A Message of the Oceans" by Sylvia Earle, ocean explorer and author.

The series, which includes lunch, will be held from noon to 1 p.m. Cost is $10 per person in advance, or $12 at the door. To register, call 831-2841, or send e-mail to MarineCom@mvs.udel.edu