14 November 2018

Going global at ICHA2018


From October 21-26 I attended the International Conference on Harmful Algae (ICHA) 2018 in Nantes, France. That week, the French Atlantic coast offered a great overview of challenges, advancements and new identifications linked with harmful algal blooms.

Written by ESR14 Barbara Kubíčková

Topics at the ICHA2018 conference covered abiotic factors’ (light and nutrients) influence on bloom dynamics and taxonomic composition, identification and characterization of novel taxa and biosynthetic pathways, advancements of bloom management techniques and analytics to implications for human health and risk assessment. 

I attended the conference with a poster and was lucky to get one of the few Ignite talk spots – giving me the first opportunity to share my work and the message of NaToxAq with an international audience from the presenter’s booth, not only as a poster. Despite the conferences’ rather marine focus, there were still very valuable opportunities to meet experts in my field of research – human health implications of freshwater cyanobacterial blooms – and discuss recent developments and future collaborations.

From left to right: The big mechanical Elephant at Les Machines de l’Ile, Barbara Kubíčková (ESR14) having an Ignite Talk at the ICHA2018 conference, the main gate of the Castle of the Dukes of Brittany, saline for salt production at La Guérande. (Photo credits: Barbara Kubíčková)

Despite the scientific part, Nantes has a lot to offer on the cultural side, too. It is a beautiful city with medieval city fortifications and birthplace to the science-fiction pioneer Jules Verne. The latter inspired an exhibition of mechanical sculptures that can be visited. Due to a flourishing trade in the 18th century and a strategic harbor the city prospered and attracted many wealthy people – which is reflected by stunning architecture and the byname “French Venice”.

As part of the conference, we also made an excursion to the saline of Guérande – a place where sea salt is still harvested by hand from the Atlantic Ocean waters. In the context of a conference discussing primarily marine challenges for food safety and health, the depiction of salt from untreated seawater as pristine was amusing.

Reflecting the ICHA2018 conference, the importance of NaToxAq stands out even more to me. In several discussions with people from all over the globe, it became clear that the struggle for clean drinking water is global and drinking water regulations are not keeping up with science. At the same time, analytical methods are becoming more sensitive, affordable and rapid, fueling the discovery of novel bioactive metabolites. But subsequently, the effects of these compounds on both, human health and ecosystems are not characterized sufficiently to allow risk assessors to conduct their work and translate current scientific findings to regulatory advice.