Spring and summer have arrived and with it comes warmer temperatures, longer days, potentially more rainfall, and fertilizers added to crops and lawns. These factors can be problematic for surface waters, particularly lakes, and may contribute to a previously clear looking blue lake to one that looks green, brown, or in some case, red. The likely cause of this change in color is algae in the lake, responding to excess nutrients and optimal environmental conditions for their growth. While most algae are not a cause for concern and are an important component of any lake ecosystem, there are some algae-like organisms that can produce toxins. They’re really bacteria, known as cyanobacteria, but they look like algae.
The cyanobacteria are not new and are among the oldest living group of organisms on earth. While not all cyanobacteria produce toxins, the ones that do are lumped into a group called Harmful Algal Blooms or HABs. They have been in the public eye lately, and people want to know more about them.
The Algal Bloom Action Team has responded to the call for more information through bulletins, webinars, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and an annual research symposium. The bulletins feature information on what people should know about HABs and prevention and treatment of them. The webinars are offered bimonthly and host researchers and extension professionals talking about recent HAB findings. The FAQs provide questions and answers on general HABs knowledge; identifying and treating HABs, animal and human health related to HABs, and nutrient management practices. The symposium features current and emerging issues related to HABs such as new techniques for monitoring for toxins, and new models to predict their occurrence. Check out these resources, and more, below!
Algal Bloom Action Team Webinar Series
The Algal Bloom Action Team is hosting a webinar series as an extension to our annual virtual research symposium.. Webinar’s will be held bimonthly. Presentations will last approximately 25 minutes with time for discussion at the conclusion of the session. This event is hosted by the North Central Region Water Network and recordings can be found by visiting our YouTube channel.
Most Recent Webinar
Harmful Algal Blooms Webinar Series – June 2022 Edition on Mitigating HABS
Watch the Recording
The June edition of the Algal Bloom Action Team’s Webinar series featured Dr. Callum Whyte from the Scottish Association for Marine Sciences and Dr. Jia Liu from the University of Southern Illinois Carbondale. Dr. Whyte manages a monitoring program for the presence of toxin producing plankton in shellfish production areas in Scotland. Dr. Liu discussed her studies on mitigating HABs under visible light for the first time using an innovative magnetic nanomaterial.
You can also view the recording of our March, May, July, and November 2021 webinars on our YouTube page.
Algal Bloom Action Team Educational Resources
- Frequently Asked Harmful Algal Bloom Questions
in the fall of 2020 the team created a database of Frequently Asked Questions or FAQs surrounding HABS. These questions cover identifying, monitoring and treating HABS, human health and HABS, and animal health and HABS. This resource can be used directly by communities and landowners, incorporated into state-based outreach materials, or used as a reference in educational programming. Access the FAQ here
- Harmful Algal Blooms – What You Should know
This factsheet covers general harmful algal bloom information and is intended for educators to use when conducting HAB outreach and education. It can also be shared with fellow educators and community organizers as it shares key HAB messages for engaged citizens, professionals and the general public. Access the factsheet here.
- Harmful Algal Blooms – Prevention and Treatment for Landowners
This factsheet outlines what landowners can do to prevent harmful algal bloom on their property and how to approach treating blooms when they do occur. Access the factsheet here.
- Partnering to Mitigate HABs in the North Central Region of the US: A White Paper
One of the first efforts the Algal Bloom Action Team undertook was developing a white paper, which was related in August 2019, outlining the next steps to address Extension needs related to harmful algal blooms. The white paper documents existing responses to HABs related issues, outreach programming needs in the North Central Region, and outlines recommendations for strengthening research and outreach efforts. Access the white paper here.
The team is working on creating additional factsheets addressing human health, animal health and more.
Harmful Algal Bloom Virtual Research Symposium
January 6-7, 2022, the Algal Bloom Action Team hosted it’s 2nd Annual free Virtual Harmful Algal Bloom Research Symposium. The last two years the event has brought together over 700 educators and researchers from across the US to hear the latest HAB research and discussed ongoing outreach efforts.
This year’s symposium featured emergent harmful algal bloom (HAB) research and provided a venue for moderated discussions regarding HAB research, outreach, and how information dissemination can be improved.
The team is planning on hosting the event again in 2023. Stay tuned for more information! Special thanks to all the contributors who helped make the event a success.
Other Harmful Algal Bloom Resources to Note
In addition to the resources from our team, we want to make you aware of other harmful algal bloom resources which can be helpful to when conducting HAB outreach and education.
- For additional algal bloom factsheets and resources, explore the Great Lakes HABs Collaborative. In particular, the HABs Collaborative includes factsheets on:
- The Interstate Technology & Regulatory Council recently released their Strategies for Preventing and Managing Harmful Cyanobacterial Blooms Report which highlights ways to respond and manage cyanobacteria blooms. The ITRC report also has a Visual Guide to Common Harmful Cyanobacteria as an appendix to the report which includes field and microscopic images on planktonic cyanobacteria and non-toxic surface and subsurface accumulations.
- The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently created communication materials to increase the public’s awareness of HABs and cyanobacteria as a public health concern. In particular, the following health promotion materials may be of interest to educators and outreach professionals
- Animal Safety Alert Poster, also available in Spanish
- Cyanobacterial Blooms: Information for Healthcare Providers, also available in Spanish
- Cyanobacterial Blooms: Information for Pet Owners, also available in Spanish
- Cyanobacterial Blooms: Information for Veterinarians, also available in Spanish
Also, The Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research (CIGLR) is seeking a postdoctoral fellowship to focus on Harmful Algal Bloom Dynamics and Toxins. More information here.
Iowa Water Center
A factsheet on this project can be found here.