Algal Bloom Action Team

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. 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 40 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:

From Drought to Deluge: Use of Multiple Sampling Modalities to Understand Microcystis Dynamics in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, California
Wednesday, April 3rd at 11:00AM – View the Recording

This edition of the Algal Bloom Action Team will feature Ellen Preece, Senior Scientist for the California Department of Water Resources. Dr. Preece will share her research on microcystin during drought and record wet years in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in California.

You can also view the recordings of our past webinars on our YouTube page.

4th Annual Harmful Algal Bloom Symposium

The Algal Bloom Action team once again held their annual virtual Harmful Algal Bloom Symposium January 4, 2024. The symposium brought over 600 water professionals from across the region to hear the latest research on HAB monitoring, treatment, outreach and communication. It also included a special feedback session posted by the NOAA Ocean Acidification Program on freshwater acidification the concerns, priorities and intersections with harmful algal blooms.

You can now view the recordings of the symposium, the session on HAB monitoring and treatment, and the session on HAB outreach and communication, on the North Central Region Water Network’s YouTube channel. You can also view the presentation slides below.

Algal Bloom Action Team Educational Resources

  • Harmful Algal Blooms and their Health-Related Effects on Animals
    This factsheet includes information on the signs of toxicity in animals, tips for domestic animals and livestock and an overview of HAB toxins and their symptoms. It also includes contact information for HAB poisoning for each of the 12 North Central Region states. Access the factsheet here.
  • 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.

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.

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.  


Amy Weckle
Program Manager
Illinois Water Resources Center at the University of Illinois