Intermediate: Potentially Toxic Cyanobacteria Course Information

Intermediate: Potentially Toxic Cyanobacteria

Why is the identification of potentially toxic species important?

Identification of potentially toxic species of cyanobacteria is essential for monitoring drinking water supplies and recreational facilities. The correct identification assists in selecting the appropriate complimentary testing and information for the basis of risk assessments and harmful algal bloom response.

Novel toxin producers occur naturally due to cyanobacteria’s horizontal gene transfer capability, so it is important to visually correlate the taxa within the water column to the toxin and gene testing. 

It is also essential to communicate the correct information to stakeholders. Unfortunately, cyanobacteria do not always display all morphological features. Knowing how to report them and to which appropriate taxonomic level is important to save money, but enable sufficient planning and mitigation.

Who is it for?

This INTERMEDIATE level course is suitable for students, early career or developing technicians, scientists, engineers, and hobbyists with some experience or have previously been introduced to phytoplankton, cyanobacteria, and microscopy. The Foundation: Introduction to Phytoplankton Course is a highly recommended pre-requisite for this course as an introduction to morphology and concepts used throughout this program.

The course is presented by Lindsay Hunt, a microbiologist and biochemist specialising in phycology and a technical trainer with over 25 years of experience in brightfield and phase contrast microscopy.

What will I learn in this course?

The course starts with an overview of the perspective and importance of microscopy in monitoring cyanobacteria, particularly the potentially toxic taxa, and how to adequately report them when aberrant morphology makes definitive identification difficult.

The identification units then separate the taxa into descriptive groups.

The final section is final assessment and feedback.


  • A downloadable textbook with 65 pages of content
  • Online content to complement the text with 35 minutes of presentations covering each taxon individually


  • Intermediate skills development in the identification of common potentially toxic cyanobacteria
  • Self-paced learning
  • Email learning support
  • Certificate of attainment and course outline for inclusion in training records

Course Outline

Module 1: Introduction to Potentially Toxic Cyanobacteria

Unit 1: Meet Your Trainer & Course Overview

Unit 2: Course Resources Downloads and Instructions

Unit 3: Introduction to Potentially Toxic Cyanobacteria

Module 2: Heterocystous Potentially Toxic Taxa

Unit 1: Raphidiopsis

Unit 2: Umezakia

Unit 3: Dolichospermum

Unit 4: Nostoc

Unit 5: Nodularia

Unit 6: Heteroscytonema

Module 3: Non-Heterocystous Potentially Toxic Taxa

Unit 1: Phormidium

Unit 2: Geitlerinema

Unit 3: Anagnostidinema

Module 4: Colonial Potentially Toxic Taxa

Unit 1: Microcystis

Module 5: Marine Potentially Toxic Cyanobacteria

Unit 1: Trichodesmium

Unit 2: Lyngbya Morphotypes

Module 6: Course Summary & Final Assessment

Unit 1: Course Summary and Final Assessment

Unit 2: Course Feedback Survey