Harmful algal blooms or HABs are present across the North Central Region, and Ohio is no exception. In fact, for many Ohioans the issue is especially close to home. 2011 saw a record-breaking blue-green algal bloom in Lake Erie which spanned roughly 2,000 square miles and drastically impacted the ecosystem. Then, in 2014, over half a million residents in Toledo, Ohio faced a “do not drink” advisory due to toxins from HABs in their drinking water. And HABs are not limited to large-scale waterbodies; many privately owned smaller lakes and ponds see blooms that impact local flora and fauna and limit recreational activities. According to Eugene Braig, the Program Director of Ohio State University Extension’s Aquatic Ecosystem program, this combination of large and small-scale bloom events throughout the state has stirred a tremendous amount of interest.
It was this interest that led Braig and colleagues from OSU’s Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geodetic Engineering to lead a project training individuals who live near smaller lakes and reservoirs in pond management and HAB prevention.
Braig notes there is already a lot of information on lake management out there, but that doesn’t mean some populations aren’t being overlooked. “A lot of the larger lakes and reservoirs are professionally managed by individuals who are trained in lake management. And there is a lot of literature targeted to private owners of small ponds. It’s the moderate-sized waterbodies, owned by multiple individuals, that often get left out. Those owner groups need training as well.”
Funding from OSU enabled Braig and colleagues to travel to Medina County, the pond capital of Ohio, and host trainings for individuals from various multi-owner lake groups. The training focused on long-term lake management and taking the right actions today to ensure healthy lake ecosystems tomorrow. In addition, participants received training in volunteer nutrient monitoring enabling them to monitor their aquatic ecosystems and develop management plans accordingly.
Following the in-service, the newly certified data collectors returned home and were able to train other lake owners in lake management and tactics to prevent HABs in their ponds. “Some of these individuals are taking this knowledge and facilitating lake management with groups of 15 or 20 people, while others are developing management tactics with 1 or 2 fellow owners. They are learning to monitor the lakes and take steps to prevent these kind of problems in the long-term,” Braig said.
The curriculum and content developed for the training contributes to Braig’s work educating clients on pond management around the state. He estimates he conducts 300 individual consultations with pond and lake owners and natural resource professionals a year and gives another 60 presentations throughout the state. “Participants are enthusiastic to learn how they can protect water resources right in their own background. There are over 50,000 ponds and lakes in Ohio so this is especially relevant to a lot of people.”
Eugene C. Braig, IV, The Ohio State University
Eugene Braig is a fisheries biologist, is Program Director for Aquatic Ecosystems with OSU Extension, and teaches fisheries management at OSU’s School of Environment and Natural Resources. He represents the state of Ohio on the Mississippi River Basin Panel of the national Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force and the US’s upper Great Lakes region on the governing board of the North American Lake Management Society. Eugene was recently appointed as a Trustee of the Ohio Biological Survey, serves on the Olentangy State Scenic River Advisory Council, is the current Vice President of the Water Management Association of Ohio, and is active with several additional committees/councils and professional organizations. On the side, he moonlights as a classical musician and serves as Artistic Director of the Columbus Guitar Society’s concert series.