Institute of Marine & Environmental Technology

Baltimore Harbor Watchman

A science hero the Inner Harbor needs

What lives or dies in Baltimore's Inner Harbor? What dangers lurk beneath its surface?

Dr. Al Place at the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology has spent years working to better understand aquatic microscopic organisms. Currently, there is a need to learn what lives in and visits Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. What impact do these organisms have when they are here? Can they grow into a harmful algal bloom? How can we detect the organisms before there are harmful effects to human and environmental health?

A scanning electron micrograph of Karlodinium veneficum cell attached to a prey cryptophyte in the process of ingestion. Photo by Vince Lovko

Can you help us secure an early-warning system?

The Baltimore Harbor Watchman, charged with examining our harbor for dangerous microscopic organisms, needs a specialized underwater tool called an Imaging FlowCytobot (IFCB) to better see and manage the microorganisms that visit Charm City.

"Living in Baltimore Harbor waters are untold number of new algal species, some benign, some highly toxic to fish and humans," Place says. "The Imaging FlowCytobot is an early-warning system that can be used to alert the public to harmful algae in the water and teach us more about those algae."

Once Dr. Place raises the funds for an IFCB, he plans to dispatch it in the water near the National Aquarium. Using a flow cytometer and video technology, the Imaging FlowCytobot can capture a stream of high-resolution photos—up to 500,000 images a day—of suspended particles in a body of water. With the aid of knowledgeable scientists and practice, the IFCB can “learn” to identify harmful organisms and send out automatic alerts.

The photos it takes will help us:

  • Learn more about the harbor's water quality and
  • Flag creatures that threaten our crabs, oysters, fish, underwater grasses, and other aquatic life.

You want to know what’s living in the Harbor, too, right? Well, this underwater camera will feed the pictures it takes to this website so you can see what's going for a swim.

Help us to bring the Harbor Watchman to Baltimore so we can protect our city’s famous waterfront! Use the links at the top of this page to browse this website and learn more about Dr. Place's research and what an Imaging FlowCytobot would mean to our city.