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.
Since 2015, the initiative has launched a new round of agency-directed research each year, with the first round of projects completed in spring 2017. The Ohio Department of Higher Education has funded all research, with matching funds contributed by participating universities. For the 2018 cohort, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA) will provide matching funds for some of the research and monitoring activities undertaken as part of the statewide effort.
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 OEPA, Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Lake Erie Commission 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.
Track Blooms from the Source
Projects aim to improve existing technologies and develop new methods to track algal blooms as they develop and move, giving lakeshore residents and state agencies quicker and more effective tools to understand whether algal blooms might cause a hazard.View Related Projects
Protect Public Health
Projects in this focus area examine the effects of the algal toxin microcystin on people and animals and study whether microcystin is found in produce irrigated with algal-contaminated water.View Related Projects
Produce Safe Drinking Water
In addition to monitoring bloom locations, researchers are developing new treatment methods for drinking water to remove algal particles and toxins.View Related Projects
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.