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:
A look at the mysteries and secrets of harmful algal blooms
Wednesday, February 7th at 11:00AM – View the Recording
The first Algal Bloom Action Team Webinar of the year featured two presentations – Jen Wisecaver, associate professor at Purdue University, who discussed extreme diversity and cryptic species in Prymnesium parvum and Barry Rosen, professor at Florida Gulf Coast University, who highlighted the secrets of freshwater cyanobacteria blooms.
- Barry Rosen, World-Class Scholar and Professor, Florida Gulf Coast University
- Jen Wisecaver, Associate Professor, Purdue University
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.
- Evaluation of Nanobubble Ozone Technology (NBOT) for Cyanobacterial HAB Control
- Employing Remote Sensing Techniques to Understand Seasonal Changes in Water Quality
- Using Solar Photocatalytic Composites to Remove Microcystin-LR in Water
- Special Feedback Session: Understanding Stakeholder Needs on Freshwater Acidification and Harmful Algal Blooms: Concerns, Priorities, and Intersections
- Harmful Algal Blooms in Iowa: A Multifaceted Approach to Understanding and Mitigating Risks
- Wisconsin Harmful Algal Bloom Surveillance Program and Public Health
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.
- 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 University of Missouri Limnology Laboratory recently released a factsheet on algeacides and copper sulphate and recommended land management practices for caring for your lake.
- 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.
Illinois Water Resources Center at the University of Illinois