Path: ISSHA » Welcome to ISSHA » HAB Trail Blazers » Don Anderson

Donald M. Anderson


1977 Ph.D. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Civil Engineering; 1976 M.S. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Civil Engineering; 1970 B.S. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Mechanical Engineering.

Professional Career

2009 – present, Director, Cooperative Institute for the North Atlantic Region (CINAR); 1995 - present, Director, US National Office for Harmful Algal Blooms; 2004-2008. Director, Coastal Ocean Institute, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI); 1991-present. Senior Scientist, WHOI; 1983-1991 Associate Scientist, WHOI; 1979-1983 Assistant Scientist, WHOI; 1978-1979 Postdoctoral Investigator, WHOI; 1978. Instructor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Department of Civil Engineering.


2006 Yasumoto Lifetime Achievement Award, ISSHA; 2005 Dr. David L. Belding Award, Massachusetts Marine Fisheries Advisory Commission; 2005 Bruun Memorial Medal, IOC Assembly, Paris; 1999 NOAA Environmental Hero Award; 1993 Stanley W. Watson Chair for Excellence in Oceanography; etymology of Alexandrium andersonii.

Key HAB contributions

Don Anderson has been a tireless advocate for Harmful Algal Bloom research for more than 25 years, safeguarding public health from algal blooms and toxic shellfish not only in the US but globally. In the US he undoubtedly is the nation's most vocal voice for HAB issues, addressing public officials (Congress, agency staff, and national boards), academic and federal researchers, private corporations, and policy makers for state and health organizations. He is an active US member of the IOC Intergovernmental Panel on HABs, the ICES-IOC Working Group on Harmful Algal Bloom Dynamics, and was a lead member of the APEC working group on safeguarding free trade of toxin-free fish and shellfish products. He has assisted China, the Philippines, several countries in Europe, South America and Africa, and the Middle East in assessing HAB threats and designing monitoring and management programs. Don is heavily involved in national and international program development for research and training. He was a leader in the development of the first US National HAB Plan, the ECOHAB science plan, the current US national HAB plan for the next decade (HARRNESS), as well as international efforts including GEOHAB and the EU-US bilateral research effort on HABs.

First and foremost, Don has been a pioneer in research, with a prolific publication output. He has an enviable record in competitive grant success, due to the consistent quality and quantity of his research team's scientific productivity, but also to his good nose and intuition to choose the right topics and phrases that appeal to granting bodies at the right time. He is a born leader who knows how to distribute work, to whom, and how to make them work, and he likes to see results, soon!. “Don has shown stunning scientific leadership,” says Ted Smayda. “He has put himself amongst the avant garde in the discipline by his eagerness to acquire new approaches and new techniques. A lot of people play it safe, but Don keeps reaching.” His current activities include directing the US National Office for Harmful Algal Blooms at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution which provides national and international HAB information to the global community and helps to coordinate US HAB conferences and other activities. Don’s early work focused on life cycles (particularly cysts) and general ecology of key dinoflagellate species, notably Alexandrium fundyense, which has become a model organism for his lab's extensive work on genetics, physiology, toxicity, ecology, and global biogeography. He has continued this dedication, establishing a regional research project coupling physical, chemical, and biological oceanography with remote sensing and modeling, with explicit links to resource managers. This multidisciplinary study of the Gulf of Maine represents a leading regional HAB activity for the US, if not the world, resulting in a comprehensive understanding of the role of physics and HAB biology in defining PSP impacts in New England. His computer simulation videoclips of Alexandrium bloom dynamics are legendary, though he is quick to point out that these are the work of his collaborators Dennis McGillicuddy and Ruoying He. A student, after seeing his videoclip at an international conference came out in ecstasy and said “He is like a God! ”.

Don’s impact can also be gauged by his intellectual progeny. He has served as principal advisor for 14 PhD students and 22 post-doctoral researchers, and is a resource for many visiting colleagues from the global HAB community. "I have always felt it was important to open up my laboratory and its resources to scientists from all over the world. At any given time in my lab, there are usually one or more foreign visitors working with us for weeks, months, or even years" he says. It would be difficult to pinpoint an area of HAB research that Don’s group did not get involved in: Alexandrium PSP bloom dynamics, Dinophysis DSP culturing, Pseudo-nitzschia ASP, ciguatera, Aureococcus brown tides, Hong Kong and Persian Gulf fish kills, marine mammal mortalities, ballast water introductions, clay flocculation, molecular biogeography, toxin physiology, Alexandrium genomics, the search for PSP genes etc. Don has also been a leader in incorporating new technologies into HAB research. He has incorporated remote sensing, from space and in-water sensors, into his larger research programs. He was one of the first to develop antibody and DNA "probes" for HAB species, and these efforts have led to the adoption of these methods for rapid and accurate enumeration of Alexandrium in major field programs, and to an automated detection system for Alexandrium based on the Sandwich Hybridization Assay. He has rapidly expanded use of molecular techniques for many aspects of his research and explored unique fiber-optic techniques for routine monitoring. Many have seen Don in action, simultaneously attending a meeting, answering his e-mail, writing a grant proposal, talking to somebody sitting next to him, and thinking about something else! “I have a great job and am blessed with the opportunity to do exciting research, supported by a long list of smart, talented, and hard-working students, postdocs, research staff, and collaborators. My successes are theirs as well.”


PhD students: Brian Binder, Dean Jacobson, Peter Franks, Chris Scholin, John Kokinos, Gaspar Taroncher Oldenburg, Deana Erdner, Nicole Poulton, Emily Lilly, Mario Sengco, Kristin Gribble, Claudia Martins, Michael Brosnahan, Gires Usup ; Postdocs: Sherwood Hall, Robert Miller, Greg Doucette, Raffael Jovine, Ann-Sofi Rehnstam Holm, Aishao Li, Sonya Dyhrman, Karin Rengefors, Anke Kremp, Kalle Olli, Mario Sengco, Andrew Juhl, Deana Erdner, Jeremiah Hackett, Bibiana Crespo, Luciano Fernandes, Juliette Smith, Emil Vahtera, Satu Viitasalo-Frösen, Mindy Richlen, Angeles Aguilera, Sonso González-Gil; Others: Tatiana Orlova, Christina Band-Schmidt, Esther Garces, Lu Songhui, Leo Chan, Junrong Liang, Mengmeng Tong, Graziela Persich, Carolina Luxoro

10 Key HAB publications

Anderson, DM, Townsend DW, McGillicuddy DJ, Turner JT (Eds). 2005. The Ecology and Oceanography of Toxic Alexandrium fundyense Blooms in the Gulf of Maine. Deep-Sea Res. II 52 (Vols. 19-21), 2365-2876.

Hallegraeff GM, Anderson DM, Cembella AD (eds.). 2003. Manual on Harmful Marine Microalgae. Monographs on Oceanographic Methodology, 11, UNESCO, 794 pp.

Anderson DM, Glibert PM, Burkholder JM. 2002. Harmful algal blooms and eutrophication: Nutrient sources, composition and consequences. Estuaries 25, 704-772.

Anderson DM, Cembella AD, Hallegraeff GM (Eds). 1998. The Physiological Ecology of Harmful Algal Blooms, Springer-Verlag, Heidelberg, 600+ pp.

Anderson DM, Garrison DL. 2007. (Eds). The Ecology and Oceanography of Harmful Algal Blooms. Limnology and Oceanography Vol. 42.

Scholin CA, Hallegraeff GM, Anderson DM. 1995. Molecular evolution and global dispersal of toxic dinoflagellates of the Alexandrium tamarense (Dinophyceae) “species complex”. Phycologia 34, 472-485.

Anderson DM, Kulis DM, Doucette GJ, Gallager JC, Balech E. 1994. Biogeography of toxic dinoflagellates in the genus Alexandrium from the northeast United States and Canada as determined by morphology, bioluminescence, toxin composition, and mating compatibility. Marine Biology 120, 467-478.

Anderson DM, Taylor CD, Armbrust EV. 1987. The effects of darkness and anaerobiosis on dinoflagellate cyst germination. Limnology and Oceanography 32, 340-351.

Anderson DM, White AW, Baden DG (Eds.). 1985. Toxic Dinoflagellates, Elsevier, New York, 561 pp.

Anderson DM, Wall D. 1978. Potential importance of benthic cysts of Gonyaulax tamarensis and G. excavata in initiating toxic dinoflagellate blooms. Journal of Phycology 14, 224-234.


17th ICHA proceeding: deadline extended until 31st March 2017


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Mexican and Latin American HAB Conference in October 2017 in Cancun, Mexico


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IOC Qualifications in identification and enumeration of harmful microalgae


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HAN 55


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