Biofouling, infection control; Analytical chemistry,; Surface science; Bioinvasions; Biofilms
Bioinvasive species, ranging from macrofoulers like zebra mussels to infective microbes, have entered the Great Lakes ecosystem from other world ports via transport in ballast water and ballast tank biofilms from commercial vessels using the St. Lawrence Seaway system. Potential disease outbreaks from pathogenic species carried ashore as bioaerosols from ballast water discharges can originate in biofilm-sequestered microbial reservoirs or as deliberate threats. Detection and monitoring of these risk factors using biofilm flow cell devices aboard ship, and bioaerosol collection/analysis devices on shore, have been successful in projects funded by Sea Grant programs. Published results document the continuing risk that ballast tank biofilms serve as "vertical seed beds" for bioinvasive species, and that current international regulations for at-sea ballast tank flushing are not adequate to remove threat particulates of microbial dimensions. Proposed improvements include provision of "easy-release" marine coatings, and modification of operating procedures to minimize bioaerosol production.