From 2021 to 2025, the IPI Proficiency Testing scheme in abundance and composition of marine microalgae programme moves to the Canary Islands Harmful Algal Observatory (OCHABs) in the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (ULPGC), Spain. The programme continues with the regular collaboration of  the IOC UNESCO Centre for Science and Communication of Harmful algae in Denmark (https://hab.ioc-unesco.org). This collaboration involves the use of algal cultures from the Scandinavian Culture Collection of Algae and Protozoa in Copenhagen, the elaboration of a marine phytoplankton taxonomy assessment (online HAB quiz) using the online platform ‘Ocean Teacher’ Global academy (OTGA), http://classroom.oceanteacher.org/ hosted by the IODE (International Oceanographic Data and information Exchange) www.iode.org/ office based in Oostende, Belgium, a project office of the IOC.

The collaboration also involves the organisation of a training workshop which is held annually to discuss the results of the intercomparison exercise and to provide training on phytoplankton taxonomy. This workshop has become an important forum for phytoplankton taxonomists working on phytoplankton monitoring programmes from around the world to convene and be able to discuss taxonomical matters related to monitoring, new advances and finds, taxonomical nomenclature changes, as well as looking at samples from different geographical areas and listening to relevant stories from other laboratories about harmful algal events in their regions of relevant ecological importance. This workshop has taken the format of a full 3 days training workshop with at least 2 days dedicated to lectures on algal groups in rooms equipped with microscopes and using live cultures and preserved samples from participants and locations across the globe.

The purpose of this exercise is to compare and evaluate the performance of testing laboratories and to monitor the laboratories continuing performance over time on the composition and abundance of marine microalgae in preserved marine samples. We work mainly with laboratories engaged in national official/non-official phytoplankton monitoring programmes, water framework directive, marine strategy framework directive and others (environmental agencies, consultancies, private companies) working in the area of analysis of water samples for marine phytoplankton abundance and composition. The Canary Islands Harmful Algal Observatory (OCHABs) recognises that regular quality control assessments are crucial to ensure a high quality output of phytoplankton data. We are programmed to apply for the accreditation of this proficiency testing scheme under ISO 17043 in due course. All our work is carried out following the technical and managerial requirements for PT schemes (ISO17043) and the data is statistically analysed using the statistical methods as laid out in ISO13528. We use the statistical database software ProLab Plus from QuoData to do the statistical evaluation of the participant’s data.