Summary of 2021 harmful algal bloom research initiative released

Press Staff Writer

        Ohio Sea Grant, on behalf of The Ohio State University, The University of Toledo and the Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE), has released the 2021 research findings update for the statewide Harmful Algal Bloom Research Initiative (HABRI), which seeks solutions for harmful algal blooms in Ohio.
        The initiative consists of more than 80 science teams working on different critical knowledge gaps identified by front-line state agencies that include the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA), Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA), Ohio Department of Health (ODH), and Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).
        The 2021 report reveals that the state of Ohio continues to benefit from the initiative:
        • Agencies now know more about the environmental factors that drive bloom toxin production, giving water treatment plant operators and recreational water managers better predictive capabilities.
        • Researchers are working directly with state agencies and water treatment plant operators to provide practical guidance on producing safe drinking water. Some have also filed provisional patents related to these treatment and detection technologies.
        • Researchers working with the Ohio Department of Agriculture and producers have improved on-field management practices to help slow nutrient loss. This includes when, where, and how to apply nutrients to reduce risk of runoff.
        • New information related to how water and nutrients move across the landscape has strengthened models that will help the Ohio Lake Erie Commission take further steps to evaluate H2Ohio and overall progress on nutrient reduction in the Maumee River watershed.     
        • The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has revised the way they collect information on algal toxin concentrations in sportfish fillets, including how to more accurately detect toxins in fish flesh, and how frequently and where to sample fish during HAB season.     
        • OEPA has modified its permit procedure to better safeguard Ohioans when HABRI projects showed that drinking water treatment residuals from treatment plants that took in contaminated source water may leach microcystins into produce and groundwater.
        • Researchers have shared information about the impacts of algal toxins in at-risk populations with the Department of Health and are developing tools to detect toxins more rapidly in water and biological samples.
        • HABRI has driven information sharing and priority setting between universities and agencies, positioning Ohio to better prevent and manage future crises.
        “HABRI research is an essential resource for Ohio EPA as we continue to monitor nutrients and understand the triggers for HABs,” said Ohio EPA director Laurie Stevenson. “The HABRI products and interaction with associated experts are valuable for HAB management and response.”
        HABRI is funded by the Ohio Department of Higher Education, with $14 million made available since 2015. Matching funding from participating Ohio universities increases the total investment to more than $28 million, demonstrating the state’s overall commitment to addressing the harmful algal bloom issue.
        Final results from 21 projects funded for 2018-2020 make up this year’s report. A new round of 12 projects was funded in early 2020, and an additional eight teams received funding in early 2021.
        “Gov. DeWine’s leadership through the H2Ohio program provides real promise in our efforts to address water quality issues. I’m pleased that Ohio’s colleges and universities continue to play a vital role in finding solutions to these problems,” said ODHE Chancellor Randy Gardner. “The Harmful Algal Bloom Research Initiative has been a collaborative problem-solving effort that uses our higher education assets to improve the quality of life for all Ohioans.”
        HABRI comprises 85 expert research teams from Bowling Green State University, Central State University, Defiance College, Heidelberg University, Kent State University, Sinclair Community College, The University of Akron, the University of Cincinnati, Miami University, Wright State University, and consortium leaders The University of Toledo and The Ohio State University.
        Information about HABRI projects, as well as partner organizations and background on the initiative, is also available on the Ohio Sea Grant website at The report can be downloaded directly at
        The Ohio Sea Grant College Program is part of The Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and 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


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