SC State graduate contributes to research on harmful algae in the southwestern hemisphere

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A day at the beach usually means soaking up the sun, playing in the ocean, fishing or relaxing with friends and family. However, for Templeton Tisdale, ‘11, a day at the beach during the summer of 2010 involved organizing data from samples of ocean water which scientists will use to detect trends in marine biotoxin levels. His hard work formed part of a report, “Spatial and Temporal Trends for the Toxic Diatom Pseudo-nitzschia in the Southwestern Hemisphere,” which will be submitted July 2011 for publication in Harmful Algae, a journal on harmful micro and macroalgae.

Templeton TisdaleTisdale, who received a Bachelor of Science in biology from SC State University, interned last summer with the Center for Coastal Environmental Health and Biomolecular Research in Charleston, S.C. 

During his internship, Tisdale worked with researchers on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Marine Biotoxins Program. His work, which also forms part of the Phytoplankton Monitoring Network, involved arranging 10 years worth of historical data collected from the coastal areas of North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia into various graphical forms, so that researchers at the laboratory could perform analysis and detection.

“This research is very important,” said Tisdale. “It is important to monitor toxin levels to detect trends and determine whether there is any threat to human or marine life.”

Tisdale explained that the microscopic plant, Pseudo-nitzschia, naturally releases a toxin called domoic acid. At a certain level, he said, this toxin can be poisonous and pose a threat to human health, marine life and, by extension, industry related to the ocean. The data collected showed that no potential threats were detected in the areas sampled. The data, however, will be used to monitor changes and determine why certain levels exist in specific locations. 

According to Tisdale, who hopes to further pursue a career in biotechnology, the experience provided him with an opportunity to see his coursework at SC State in action and gain valuable lab experience.

“Many of the concepts used came directly from my cell physiology and microbiology classes,” he said. “This internship allowed me to apply these concepts and gain more insight into marine biology.”

Principal investigator of the center’s research project, Dr. Steve Morton, says Tisdale was the best undergraduate in his program that summer. 

“He was fantastic,” said Morton. “I would really encourage him to further his studies in marine biology.”

Tisdale plans to attend a graduate program in biotechnology. The Awendaw, S.C., native says he is especially grateful to his professors at SC State University for preparing him to meet the demands of his desired career in this area of study.