Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs), or blue green algae, are naturally occurring; however, their frequency and intensity are increasing. The rises in frequency are tightly linked to anthropogenic activities influencing nutrient delivery to surface water resources. Heightened agriculture production, discharges from sewer and wastewater management, and other urban runoff has amplified the amount of nutrients entering local and regional water systems. Excess nutrients create a “greening” effect with the growth of algae, which challenges healthy ecosystem functionality. One of the largest of these water impairments is the hypoxic zone in the Gulf of Mexico due to runoff from the upriver states in the Mississippi River Basin. Local water impairments, such as the Toledo, Ohio drinking water crisis in 2014, demonstrate the significant water damages that can occur if the issue is left without scientific remediation.
The North Central Region Algal Bloom Action Team was formed in 2018 to review Extension programs in the North Central Region related to harmful algal blooms (HAB) and recommend future HAB outreach to help combat this issue. The team is comprised of representatives from Extension and the Water Resources Research Institutes at each of the land-grant universities within the North Central Region.
After performing a region-wide needs assessment and publishing a report on their findings, the team has been working to make emergent HAB research accessible to agriculture and natural resource educators across the region. The group is working to create HAB webinars, factsheets, a comprehensive frequently asked questions database, and a photo library of HAB images. Information on each of their intiatives are outlined below.
Algal Bloom Action Team Webinar Series
The Algal Bloom Action Team is hosting a webinar series as a follow-up to January’s virtual symposium highlighting the latest HAB research. Webinar’s will be held bimonthly with the first webinar taking place next week on Wednesday, March 3rd. 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 and Public Health
Wednesday, May 5, 2021 –Watch the Recording
This webinar featured presentations from Victoria Christensen, Research Hydrologist with the USGS Upper Midwest Water Science Center and Virginia Roberts, Epidemiologist with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Discussion focused on models to predict cyanotoxin mixtures that pose a human exposure risk and the CDC’s One Health Harmful Algal Bloom System.
- Victoria Glenn Christensen, Research Hydrologist, USGS Upper Midwest Water Science Center
- Virginia Roberts, Epidemiologist, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Waterborne Disease Prevention Branch
As a part of their work, the team hosted a Virtual Harmful Algal Bloom Research Symposium in January 2021 where over 890 educators and researchers from across the US tuned in to hear the latest HAB research and discussed ongoing outreach efforts. The team is working to make this an annual event. More information and recordings are available here.
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
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.
The team is working on creating additional factsheets addressing human health, animal health and more.
For additional algal bloom factsheets and resources, explore the Great Lakes HABs Collaborative or the Interstate Technology & Regulatory Council’s Strategies for Preventing and Managing Harmful Cyanobacterial Blooms Report.
Iowa Water Center
A factsheet on this project can be found here.