Columbus, Ohio Researchers from several Ohio universities are leading the latest projects in the Ohio Department of Higher Education’s (ODHE) ongoing Harmful Algal Bloom Research Initiative (HABRI). Previous HABRI projects 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 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, Ohio Department of Agriculture, Ohio Department of Health, and Ohio Department of 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 Dr. 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 (The Ohio State University), James Hood (The Ohio State University), Kaiguang Zhao (The Ohio State University)
Produce Safe Drinking Water: Teresa Cutright (The University of Akron), Ganming Liu (Bowling Green State University)
Protect Public Health: April Ames (The University of Toledo), Elizabeth Dayton (The Ohio State University), Steven Haller (The University of Toledo), Wu Lu (The Ohio State University), W. Von Sigler (The University of Toledo)
Engage Stakeholders: Steve Lyon (The Ohio State University)
“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 Dr. Thomas Bridgeman, professor of ecology at The University of Toledo, director of the UToledo Lake Erie Center and co-chair of the Harmful Algal Bloom Research Initiative. “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 The Ohio State University and The University of Toledo, with Ohio Sea Grant providing proposal coordination and ongoing project management.
The Ohio State University’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.