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Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE) Harmful Algal Bloom Research Initiative | Ohio Sea Grant

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Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE) Harmful Algal Bloom Research Initiative

Tracking harmful algal blooms, ensuring safe drinking water, protecting public health and providing critical education and outreach for stakeholders dealing with HABs issues

Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE) Harmful Algal Bloom Research Initiative

Tracking harmful algal blooms, ensuring safe drinking water, protecting public health and providing critical education and outreach for stakeholders dealing with HABs issues

After the Toledo water crisis in August 2014, the Ohio Department of Higher Education (then the Ohio Board of Regents) allocated $2 million to Ohio universities for research to solve the harmful algal bloom problem in Lake Erie. The funding was matched by participating universities for a total of more than $4 million.

Led by representatives from The Ohio State University and the University of Toledo, and managed by Ohio Sea Grant, the first round of the Harmful Algal Bloom Research Initiative (HABRI) includes 18 projects involving researchers from seven Ohio universities and partners as far-flung as South Dakota and Japan.

The initiative also provides invaluable training for Ohio students, from undergraduate to doctoral candidates, which distinguishes university research from other scientific institutions and gives taxpayers a double return on their investment.

Input from partners such as the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Lake Erie Commission (Appendix I) ensures that projects complement state agency efforts to protect Ohio’s fresh water and that results address known management needs to ensure
sustainable water for future generations.

HABRI used Ohio Sea Grant’s proposal development system to streamline project proposals, project management and public engagement, capitalizing on Sea Grant’s strong reputation among various stakeholder groups including the research community.

Background Information

A harmful algal bloom (HAB) is any large increased density of algae that is capable of producing toxins. In freshwater, such as Lake Erie, those algae tend to be cyanobacteria — more commonly known as blue-green algae — which grow excessively in warm water with a high phosphorus concentration.

Phosphorus enters the water from agriculture, suburban and urban sources, and likelihood of runoff is strongly affected by climatic factors including drought, severe weather and average temperatures.

Many HABRI projects seek to understand both how phosphorus and other elements like nitrogen affect algal blooms, and how runoff can be reduced without negative impacts on farmers and other industries. Other projects focus on the public health impacts of toxic algal blooms, ranging from drinking water issues to food contamination.

BY THE NUMBERS

10 universities across the state of Ohio are working on solving the harmful algal bloom problem.

133 researchers are tackling the problem from all angles, from the molecular level to basin-wide monitoring.

$ 4 M in matching funds from participating universities double the impact of ODHE’s investment