Latest Harmful Algal Bloom Research Initiative projects address impacts on Ohio
Efforts focus on bloom source tracking, drinking water safety, public health
Ohio State University researchers are leading several of the latest water quality improvement projects in the Ohio Department of Higher Education’s ongoing Harmful Algal Bloom Research Initiative.
Previous projects funded under the initiative have developed algal toxin early warning systems for water treatment plants, changed the way state agencies collect data for fish consumption advisories, and helped modify permit procedures for safer use of water treatment residuals as agricultural fertilizer.
The selected projects focus on reducing nutrient loading to Lake Erie, investigating algal toxin formation and human health impacts, studying bloom dynamics, and better informing water treatment plants about how to remove toxins.
“Lake Erie is an invaluable resource and a true treasure for the state of Ohio, and we have a responsibility to do all we can to preserve it and protect it,” said ODHE Chancellor Randy Gardner. “I’m pleased that our university researchers are collaborating to lead this endeavor.”
The projects also aid the efforts of state agencies such as the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, and the Ohio departments of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources.
“Direct engagement with these front-line agencies continues to allow HABRI scientists to develop research proposals that address both immediate and long-term needs of the people tackling this important statewide issue,” said Kristen Fussell, assistant director of research and administration for Ohio Sea Grant, who leads the initiative’s daily administration.
Researchers will lead projects in four focus areas:
- Track Blooms from the Source: Justin Chaffin, James Hood, Kaiguang Zhao (Ohio State)
- Produce Safe Drinking Water: Teresa Cutright (University of Akron), Ganming Liu (Bowling Green State University)
- Protect Public Health: April Ames (University of Toledo), Elizabeth Dayton (Ohio State), Steven Haller (University of Toledo), Wu Lu (Ohio State), W. Von Sigler (University of Toledo)
- Engage Stakeholders: Steve Lyon (Ohio State)
“Thanks in part to past HABRI projects, the primary threat of microcystin algal toxin to our Lake Erie-sourced drinking water has been greatly diminished,” said Thomas Bridgeman, professor of ecology and director of The University of Toledo Lake Erie Center and co-chair of HABRI. “Even under the best-case scenario, however, we are likely to be living with harmful algal blooms for many years to come."
A total of $9.4 million in funding was made available through ODHE in 2015 and designated for five rounds of HABRI projects (before matching funds by participating universities). Matching funding from participating Ohio universities increases the total investment to almost $20.9 million for more than 60 projects, demonstrating the state’s overall commitment to solving the harmful algal bloom problem.
Information about HABRI projects, partner organizations, and background on the initiative is available on the Ohio Sea Grant website at go.osu.edu/habri. HABRI is overseen by Ohio State and the University of Toledo, with Ohio Sea Grant providing proposal coordination and ongoing project management.
Ohio State’s Ohio Sea Grant College Program is part of NOAA Sea Grant, a network of 34 Sea Grant programs dedicated to the protection and sustainable use of marine and Great Lakes resources. For more information, visit ohioseagrant.osu.edu.