U.S. Geological Survey - Environmental Health

Algal and Other Environmental Toxins Laboratory — Lawrence, Kansas

About the Laboratory

Scientists at the Organic Geochemistry Research Laboratory (OGRL) in Lawrence, Kansas, develop and employ targeted and non-targeted analytical methods for identification and quantitation of known and understudied algal/cyanobacterial toxins that can impact the health of humans and other organisms. Newly acquired (2018) instrumentation will expand capabilities to continue toxin detection with increased throughput, connect toxin exposure with biomarkers to meet the growing demand for reliable algal toxin data and better define health effects thresholds.

USGS scientist working at a computer
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientist working on data analysis of cyanotoxins in water samples. Photo Credit: Keith A. Loftin, USGS.
Map of the occurrence of microcystins in lakes in the U.S.
United States occurrence of microcystins in lakes in the contiguous 48 U.S. states categorized by World Health Organization relative probable health risk. WHO low, moderate, and high refer to the relative human recreational health thresholds for microcystin exposure. Map not shown to scale. Modified from figure 2 from Loftin and others, 2016.

Current Algal/Cyanobacterial Toxins Capabilities

  • Cyanotoxins: anatoxin-a, BMAA, cylindrospermopsin, 10 microcystins, nodularin-R, saxitoxins
  • Marine Toxins: azaspiracid-1, domoic acid, dinophysistoxin-2, gymnodimine, okadaic acid, pectinotoxin-2, 13-desmethyl-spirolide C, saxitoxins
USGS scientists working with a laboratory instrument
USGS scientists evaluating the nebulizer assembly in a mixed mode ionization source of a triple quadrupole mass spectrometer used to measure individual cyanotoxins. Photo Credit: Keith A. Loftin, USGS.

Key Instrumentation

  • New (2018) 2,500 square foot modern laboratory facility
  • Three bioinert liquid chromatography triple quadrupole mass spectrometers for quantitation
  • Two bioinert liquid chromatography high resolution mass spectrometers for identification of unknown chemicals and biomarkers of exposure
  • An automated bioassay plate reader for toxin screening and toxicity endpoint measurement
  • An infrared spectrophotometer for chemical screening and structure illucidation
  • A handheld x-ray fluorescence analyzer for elemental analysis screening (such as metals)
USGS scientist working with a laboratory instrument
USGS) scientist preparing to measure cyanotoxins in water samples using an automated enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) instrument Photo Credit: Keith A. Loftin, USGS.
Keith A. Loftin
Keith A. Loftin, USGS, is the lead scientist for algal and cyanobacterial toxins. Photo Credit: Ariel Donovan, USGS.


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Page Last Modified: 18-Apr-2018 @ 12:31:28 PM EDT