Analytical Science news

Cawthron is working with councils to ensure new freshwater algae monitoring services meet requirements
6 April 2018

Innovation delivers more accurate results faster

Cawthron Analytical Services are leading the way in the freshwater testing space by developing methods that deliver more accurate results with faster turnaround times.

“Environmental data is hugely important to local government and we’re seeing ever-greater demand for our laboratory services” says Catherine Moisan, Cawthron’s Natural Toxins Section Head. Because toxic algae present a public health risk and testing for freshwater toxins is complex, innovations that deliver results more quickly are well received.

Anabaena cf. circinalis is a bloom-forming cyanobacteria found in some New Zealand lakes

Demand for faster, more sensitive methods, and for new technology like remote sensors and rapid kits, is growing, but the transition to these tools needs to be well managed to ensure the data available to councils remains robust.

Catherine Moisan explains how Cawthron is applying new technology to routine testing. “The latest innovation to be added to our range of environmental tests for councils is the application of molecular technology to freshwater testing.”

“One of the molecular analyses our research group is developing will allow us to ‘screen’ freshwater samples and detect the presence of potentially toxic algae. Results from the screening will reveal whether a full analysis is required and, if so, the sample will then be processed using the highly accurate, but big-budget, LC-MS.”

“Molecular technology significantly outpaces traditional methods, meaning improved result turnaround times. This gives councils the opportunity for a faster public health response if required.”

Faster and more accurate methods for monitoring freshwater algae – like the one shown above, caused by Microcystis – allow for earlier detection of potentially toxic blooms

Faster and more cost-effective testing may have flow-on benefits for local authorities. As the data needed to respond to public health issues becomes more accessible, councils will be able to sample more places more often within a given budget. These innovations align nicely with efforts such as those by Land, Air, Water Aotearoa ( to make environmental data more widely available.

Cawthron is working with councils around the country to ensure the new freshwater algae monitoring services meet their requirements.

For more information our freshwater testing services, please contact Catherine Moisan.