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Coastal and Estuarine Ecology and Management




Non-native invasive species are increasingly evident in marine and estuarine environments, largely because of the intake and release of ballast water from sea vessels. Innovative methods are needed to quickly and accurately detect and speciate non-native and/or harmful phytoplankton in ballast water. Recent advances in ionization techniques such as matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry (MALDI-MS) have allowed detection of intact biomolecules within ballast samples. Statistically-based algorithms are used to discern "fingerprints" of phytoplankton species and to discern individual species from mixtures. MALDI-MS is particularly attractive for field applications because of the speed of analysis, minimal liquids/consumables required, and femtomole (10-15) sensitivity.

The objective of this project was to develop a rapid assay technique that was less time-consuming than more traditional methods of microorganism species identification in ballast water samples. Specific objectives included: (1) modifying MALDI-MS bacterial identification techniques for the analysis of phytoplankton, (2) determining the uniqueness of phytoplankton MALDI-MS fingerprints with a limited subset of phytoplankton, and (3) initiating evaluations of known phytoplankton identification in spiked environmental/ballast water samples.


Approved for public release, distribution is unlimited

Public Domain Mark 1.0

Original Publication Citation

Woodruff, D., Wahl, K. L., Valentine, N. B., & Dobbs, F. (2007). Application of MALDIs-MS to identification of phytoplankton in ballast water (RC-1248). Retrieved from Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program and Environmental Security Technology Certification Program Office:


0000-0002-3901-179X (Dobbs)

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Oceanography Commons


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