Date of Award

Spring 2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Ocean & Earth Sciences


Ocean and Earth Sciences

Committee Director

Margaret Mulholland

Committee Member

H. Roger Harvey

Committee Member

Shannon L. Wells

Call Number for Print

Special Collections LD4331.O35 S245 2015


Cyanobacteria blooms are increasing globally as a result of eutrophication. Many cyanobacteria are potentially harmful, not only because of the oxygen depleted zones created when they decay, but also because of the toxins they produce. β- Methylamino-L-alanine (BMAA), reportedly produced by many species of cyanobacteria, is a non-proteinogenic amino acid that has been linked to the development of neurodegenerative diseases (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and Alzheimer's) in humans. This study presents results from an assessment of BMAA in cyanobacteria and their grazers from the lower Chesapeake Bay and Lake Erie regions. BMAA was analyzed in samples prepared with the EZ:Faast™ kit using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) as well as LTQ Orbitrap liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS). Even though detection limits were as low as 0.28 ng and 5.24 pg for the GC-MS and LC-MS methods, respectively, BMAA was not found in any cyanobacteria samples analyzed as part of this study. Likewise, BMAA was not detected in any fish collected from Sandusky Bay and Grand Lake St. Marys, or clam, oyster, and crab samples from the lower Chesapeake Bay. BMAA concentrations in blue crab samples previously collected from the upper Chesapeake Bay and analyzed by another laboratory were verified (9.5μg g-1 dry weight) using the methodologies reported here. Although this study did not detect BMAA in many samples, this may be because BMAA production is highly variable in the environment. Further sampling is needed, especially in localities with dense cyanobacteria blooms, to assess the human exposure risk to this putative toxin.


In Copyright. URI: This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).