Analytical Science news

Josh Fitzgerald
30 November 2018

Cawthron technician recipient of the QEII Technician Award

Cawthron Institute technician and recipient of the QEII technician award Josh Fitzgerald recently spent seven weeks working at the Sydney Institute of Marine Science (SIMS) and the University of Technology Sydney. During his time there he used SIMS’ liquid chromatography mass spectrometer (LCMS) to screen a selection of microalgae for Ciguatoxins.

Ciguatoxins are potent marine toxins produced by some Gambierdiscus species of microalgae and can be found in tropical reef systems. The toxins are problematic as they bio-magnify up the food chain causing ciguatera fish poisoning when contaminated fish are consumed by unsuspecting humans. The toxins themselves are odourless, tasteless and resistant to cooking.

Cawthron Institute has been able to provide the intellectual property to develop a screening method for the Thermo Orbitrap LCMS instrument which can now be used to detect several of the many diverse CTX analogues.

“During my time based at SIMS I gained technical skills with regard to the instrument’s high-resolution accurate mass ability,” says Josh, “whilst being exposed to a very broad topic ranging from A for Algae through to m/Z, which is the unit of measure on the LCMS. The LCMS is able to differentiate target analytes and determine elemental composition.

“The biggest success during my time there was demonstrating that the LCMS instrument Cawthron has access to, has the ability to detect Ciguatoxins in different sample types and can determine structural information about the toxins. This will be useful and complementary to the ongoing work we are currently doing, and the research we are planning to do at Cawthron.”

Josh says that on a more personal level he was able to appreciate the challenges of method development and working in a collaborative research environment, delivering outcomes for Cawthron, the University of Technology Sydney, and SIMS while enjoying working in the beautiful natural setting where SIMS is located.