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:
Nearshore Attached Filamentous Algal Blooms: A New and Growing Problem
Watch the Recording or Access the Presentation Slides
We are all aware of the threat of harmful algal blooms in waterbodies with high nutrient levels, but why are algal blooms forming on the bottoms of clear lakes with low concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus?
Our July HAB webinar featured Yvonne Vadeboncoeur, Professor of Biological Sciences at Wright State University, who discussed her work on filamentous algal blooms and the rising threat they pose for nearshore habitats in lakes with high water quality. Dr. Vadeboncoeur discussed groundwater pollution, lake food webs, and the role of the public in better understanding this new threat to some of the world’s most iconic lakes.
You can also view the recording of our March or May webinars on our YouTube page.
Virtual Research Symposium
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.
The team is hosting their 2nd Annual Virtual Harmful Algal Bloom Research Symposium January 6-7, 2022. The symposium will feature emergent harmful algal bloom (HAB) research and provide a venue for moderated discussions regarding HAB research, outreach, and how information dissemination can be improved.
The team is currently accepting presentation abstracts addressing human health and HABs, animal health and HABs, monitoring, identifying and the ecology of HABs, preventing and treating HABs. Applications are due Friday, August 27th at 11:59PM CT.
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.
The team is working on creating additional factsheets addressing human health, animal health and more.
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.
- 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
Iowa Water Center
A factsheet on this project can be found here.