Harmful Algal Bloom Research Initiative receives $3.5 million

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Lake Erie algal bloom
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. (Farm and Dairy file photo)

COLUMBUS  — The Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE) 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.

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.

Focus areas

Researchers will lead newly funded projects in four focus areas.

  • Track blooms from the source: Thomas Bridgeman, University of Toledo; Justin Chaffin, Ohio State University; Tim Davis, Bowling Green State University; Laura Johnson, Heidelberg University; Margaret Kalcic, Ohio State University; Harold Keener, Ohio State University; Patrick Lawrence, University of Toledo; Catharine McGhan, University of Cincinnati; W. Robert Midden, Bowling Green State University; and Saatvika Rai, Ohio State University.
  • Produce safe drinking water: Nicholas Basta, Ohio State University; Jason Huntley, University of Toledo; John Lenhart, Ohio State University; Wu Lu, Ohio State University; and R. Michael McKay, Bowling Green State University.
  • Protect public health: April Ames, University of Toledo; Steven Haller, University of Toledo; David Kennedy, University of Toledo; Thomas Knobloch, Ohio State University; and Wu Lu, Ohio State University.
  • Engage stakeholders: Stuart Ludsin, Ohio State University.

HABRI funding

harmful algal bloom
Harmful algal bloom as seen from the research docks of The Ohio State University’s Stone Laboratory on Gibraltar Island in Lake Erie in 2013. Image by Jeff Reutter, courtesy of Stone Laboratory.

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.

HABRI is overseen by 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 33 Sea Grant programs dedicated to the protection and sustainable use of marine and Great Lakes resources. For more information click here.

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