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prof. dr. Bojan Sedmak: Cyanobacteria and Their Toxins
What are they, Where can we find them, Why are they able to prevail and How do they behave?
The development of various areas of science is now so fierce and the accumulated knowledge so extensive that new research is constantly splintering into new levels of specialization. The number of scientific publications is so numerous that a person could read twenty-four hours a day catching up on the latest developments from only one specific area. Therefore, individual scientists who want to be successful are forced to limit themselves to a very narrow area of interest. The holistic approach is not rewarded and therefore mostly neglected. In such a way, a substantial vacuum is created where even highly educated experts from various fields are confronted with considerable obstacles to mutual communication. Therefore, there is an increasing need for a better understanding of the "big picture" and for more efficient methods to deal with problems in a broader context. Mutual understanding between experts from various fields facilitates productive dialogue that leads to solid fact-based initiatives that can develop society in beneficial directions.
One example of such a comprehensive approach is this scientific booklet on cyanobacteria and their toxins. This work is a tutorial on how to address the urgent problem of managing the quality of environmental waters. Today, in the developed world, such waters are largely suffering from, or at risk of, significant pollution. Firstly, this booklet presents the toxic organisms that can occur in massive amounts in such waters, their role historically and significance in our time. It also explains how we can often recognize them with the naked eye, even though they are microscopic. Further, it is explained how they can be further discriminated them from other similar water inhabitants by means of a microscope. The booklet serves as a guide, proceeding from taxonomy to ecology and then moves to experimental toxicology. It offers a detailed characterization of the toxic substances produced by cyanobacteria, the methods for determining their presence, their biological activities, and their fate in organisms and the environment. The expert terminology is explained using more popular but still scientifically correct terms. All aspects discussed here, from massive cyanobacterial blooms in lakes to the chemical structures and biological effects of toxins, are richly illustrated with photography, microphotography, tables and drawings. The chapter "From the natural environment to the laboratory" describes the problem of water resource management, monitoring, sanitation methods, and consequences of reckless actions on the natural environment. In short, this booklet provides a comprehensive overview of the environmental problem, providing a solid base for informed decision and action.
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