Alison Robertson, Ph.D.

Alison Robertson, Ph.D.

Senior Marine Scientist I

Assistant Professor, University of South Alabama; (PI): Harmful Algal Blooms in the nGOM and Beyond; Ph.D. 2005, James Cook University (Australia)


Over the past 15 years, Dr. Alison Robertson's research has focused on elucidation of the mechanisms of toxicity and resistance, and health impacts of natural toxins and anthropogenic contaminants in marine and freshwater at multiple levels of organization (bio-molecular, cellular, organismal, population, community, and ecosystem). She has a strong interest in understanding impacts of chemical contaminants in aquatic organisms and ecosystems, particularly the sub-lethal effects on behavior, reproduction, immune system, and nervous system function.

Research Highlights:

  • Understanding the chemical ecology and mechanisms of toxin and secondary metabolite production in pelagic and benthic phytoplankton 
  • Biomolecular mechanisms and impacts of phycotoxin exposure in marine biota and humans
  • Evaluating ecological risk of cyanotoxins, ciguatoxins, and other phycotoxins on local, regional, and global scales

Recently Funded and Active Grants:

Research Interest



  • 2022

    Mudge, E.M., J. Meija, S. Uhlig, A. Robertson, P. McCarron, and C.O. Miles. Production and stability of Oxygen-18 labeled Caribbean ciguatoxins and gambierones. Toxicon 2022, 211:11-20.

  • 2021

    Mudge, E.M., A. Robertson, A. Leynse, P. McCarron, and C.O. Miles. Selective Extraction of Gambierone and Related Metabolites in Gambierdiscus silvae using m-Aminophenylboronic Acid–Agarose Gel and Liquid Chromatography–High-Resolution Mass Spectrometric Detection Journal of Chromatography B 2021, 123014.

  • Gwinn, JK., S. Uhlig, L. Ivanova, C.K.Faest, F. Kryuchkov, A. Robertson. In Vitro Glucuronidation of Caribbean Ciguatoxins in Fish: First Report of Conjugative Ciguatoxin Metabolites. Chemical Research in Toxicology. 34 (8), 1910-1925.

  • Liefer, J.D.; M.L. Richlen, T.B. Smith, J.L. DeBose, Y. Xu, D.M. Anderson, A. Robertson. Asynchrony of Gambierdiscus spp. Abundance and Toxicity in the U.S. Virgin Islands: Implications for Monitoring and Management of Ciguatera. Toxins. 13, 413.

  • Hancock, TL., S.L. Blonder, A.A. Bury, R. A. Smolinski, M.L. Parsons, A. Robertson, H. Urakawa. Succession pattern and phylotype analysis of microphytobenthic communities in a simulated oil spill seagrass mesocosm experiment. Science of The Total Environment. 784, 47053.

  • Dahl, K.A., A. Fields, A. Robertson, D.S. Portnoy, A. Grieme, G. Lockridge, and W.F. Patterson. Factors affecting DNA barcoding classification accuracy for piscine prey: An experimental assessment with invasive lionfish. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology. 547: p. 151675.

  • Bennett, C.T. and A. Robertson. Depuration kinetics and growth dilution of Caribbean CTX in the omnivore Lagodon rhomboides: Implications for trophic transfer and ciguatera risk. Toxins 2021, 13(11):774. DOI: 10.3390/toxins13110774.

  • 2020

    Kryuchkov, F., A. Robertson, C.O. Miles, E.M. Mudge, and S. Uhlig. LC–HRMS and Chemical Derivatization Strategies for the Structure Elucidation of Caribbean Ciguatoxins: Identification of C-CTX-3 and -4. Mar. Drugs. 18(4),182.

  • FAO-WHO 25 contributing authors listed alphabetically Robertson, A.. Report of the Expert Meeting on Ciguatera Poisoning. Rome, 19–23 November 2018. Rome, Italy. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 156pp.

  • Curran, M. C. and A. Robertson. Chemistry Made Easy: Teaching Students about the Link Between Marine Chemistry and Coral Reef Biodiversity. Current: The Journal of Marine Education. 34(2): 1-11.

  • 2019

  • Bennett, C.T., A. Robertson, and W.F. Patterson. First record of the non-indigenous Indo-Pacific damselfish, Neopomacentrus cyanomos (Bleeker, 1856) in the northern Gulf of Mexico. BioInvasions Records. 8 (1): 154–166. DOI: 10.3391/bir.2019.8.1.17.

  • Gwinn, J. K., A. Robertson and R. P. Kiene. Effect of Salinity on DMSP Production in Gambierdiscus belizeanus (Dinophyceae). Journal of Phycology. 55(6): 1401-1411.

  • 2018

    Parsons, M. L., M. L. Richlen and A. Robertson. Harmful Algae: Gambierdiscus. Harmful Algal Blooms: A Compendium Desk Reference: 601-604.

  • Loeffler, C. R., A. Robertson, H. A. Flores Quintana, M. C. Silander, T. B. Smith and D. Olsen. Ciguatoxin prevalence in four commercial fish species along an oceanic exposure gradient in the US Virgin Islands. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry. 37(7): 1852-1863.

Who We Are

Molly Miller, Ph.D.

Research Assistant Professor, CiguaPIRE Research Coordinator

Focus area: Chemical Ecology of Algal Secondary Metabolites


Jennifer DeBose, Ph.D.

Research Specialist (part-time), Greater Caribbean Center for Ciguatera Research

Focus area: Chemical Ecology of Algal Secondary Metabolites

Keiana James, MSc.

Research Technician

Focus area: Environmental Chemistry

Alex Elizabeth (Liz) Murphy, BSc.

Biotechnologist III

Focus area: Prevalence, Distribution, and Environmental Drivers of Natural Toxins in Fish


Alexander Leynse, Ph.D. Candidate, Marine Sciences

BS, Florida Gulf Coast University
MS, Florida Gulf Coast University

Project: The ecological function of secondary metabolites of tropi-benthic dinoflagellates

Jessica Gwinn, Ph.D. Candidate, Marine Sciences

B.S in Bioenvironmental Sciences,
B.S. in Wildlife & Fisheries Sciences, Texas A & M University

Dissertation:  Toxicokinetic Properties of Caribbean Ciguatoxins: Linking Organismal to Ecological Movement of CTX

Clay Bennett, Ph.D. Student, Marine Sciences

B.S. 2008, Troy University
2008 - 2012, Fisheries Observer, NOAA

Dissertation: Toxicokinetics of Caribbean ciguatoxin in mid-trophic level fish.

Sean Collins, MS Student, Marine Sciences

B.S. Biology, University of South Alabama

Thesis:  Effects of Phycotoxins on Endocrine Nuclear Receptor Response in Gulf Killifish (Fundulus grandis)

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