COLUMBUS The Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE) has awarded $3.5 million in funding for 21 additional projects in its ongoing Harmful Algal Bloom Research Initiative. HABRI is a statewide response to the threat of harmful algal blooms that arose out of the 2014 Toledo drinking water crisis, where elevated levels of the algal toxin microcystin in Lake Erie threatened water supplies for more than 500,000 people in northwest Ohio.
“I am proud of the work that is being done, and that researchers from our public and private higher education institutions continue to work together to address this issue,” said Ohio Department of Higher Education Chancellor John Carey. “Using the talent of Ohio’s researchers and students to solve pressing problems makes perfect sense.”
The selected projects focus on reducing nutrient loading to Lake Erie, investigating algal toxin formation and human health impacts, studying bloom dynamics, better informing water treatment plants how to remove toxins, and aiding the efforts of state agencies such as the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA), Ohio Department of Agriculture, Ohio Department of Health, and Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
“Direct engagement with these front-line agencies has really helped the scientists who are involved in HABRI develop research proposals that address both immediate and long-term needs of the people tackling this issue,” said Dr. Kristen Fussell, assistant director of research and administration for Ohio Sea Grant, who leads the initiative’s daily administration.
Researchers will lead newly funded projects in four focus areas:
Track Blooms from the Source: Thomas Bridgeman (The University of Toledo), Justin Chaffin (The Ohio State University), Tim Davis (Bowling Green State University), Laura Johnson (Heidelberg University), Margaret Kalcic (The Ohio State University), Harold Keener (The Ohio State University), Patrick Lawrence (The University of Toledo), Catharine McGhan (University of Cincinnati), W. Robert Midden (Bowling Green State University), and Saatvika Rai (The Ohio State University)
Produce Safe Drinking Water: Nicholas Basta (The Ohio State University), Jason Huntley (The University of Toledo), John Lenhart (The Ohio State University), Wu Lu (The Ohio State University), and R. Michael McKay (Bowling Green State University)
Protect Public Health: April Ames (The University of Toledo), Steven Haller (The University of Toledo), David Kennedy (The University of Toledo), Thomas Knobloch (The Ohio State University), and Wu Lu (The Ohio State University)
Engage Stakeholders: Stuart Ludsin (The Ohio State University)
HABRI is funded by the Ohio Department of Higher Education, with $7.1 million made available for four rounds of research funding (before matching funds by participating universities) since 2015. The most recent funding includes a $500,000 grant from OEPA in addition to $3.5 million of ODHE funds. Matching funding from participating Ohio universities increases the total investment to almost $15.5 million for more than 50 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 The Ohio State University and The University of Toledo, with Ohio Sea Grant providing proposal coordination and ongoing project management.
Ohio State University’s Ohio Sea Grant College Program is part of NOAA Sea Grant, a network of 33 Sea Grant programs dedicated to the protection and sustainable use of marine and Great Lakes resources. For more information, visit ohioseagrant.osu.edu.