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Researchers create online database to help inform public about harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie

It’s now easier for Toledo area residents and businesses looking for information about water quality and the health of Lake Erie to go directly to the source.

Researchers at The University of Toledo launched a website database containing hundreds of reports and studies discussing Lake Erie harmful algal blooms.

In 2014, the city of Toledo issued a ‘Do Not Drink’ advisory for half a million residents for three days due to the level of the algal toxin microcystin detected in the drinking water.

The Ohio Department of Higher Education, with the assistance of the Ohio Sea Grant College Program, gave UT $66,000 in 2015 to develop the database and support research related to harmful algal blooms.

The Lake Erie algal bloom online database project was a collaborative effort between Dr. Patrick Lawrence, professor in the Department of Geography and Planning, and associate dean of social and behavioral sciences in the College of Arts and Letters; Dr. Kevin Egan, associate professor in the Department of Economics; and researchers from Ohio State University and Kent State University.

The database currently contains more than 300 reports, web links and key contacts, Lawrence said. The team plans to update the database and add more resources before the next algal bloom season.

“The intent is to help educate and inform stakeholders in the Maumee watershed by providing access to the best and most recent research and information so as to drive an open and participatory engagement with discussion about how we can all work collectively on a wide range of solutions to reduce the frequency, size and impacts of Lake Erie harmful algal blooms,” Lawrence said.

The Ohio Department of Higher Education has funded more than 20 projects from several Ohio universities, including cost-benefit analysis for potential options to use wetlands as a form of natural storage and treatment of nutrients from farmland; economic issues associated with improving farm practices to reduce runoff of nutrients; and an assessment of the connections and interactions among stakeholders within the Maumee basin involved or interested in harmful algal blooms and possible measures to address and reduce them.

For more information about Lake Erie harmful algal blooms, the database can be found at lakeeriehabsis.gis.utoledo.edu.