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UT faculty, students to present diverse water quality research at Great Lakes conference in Detroit

An ongoing study on the height of the annual algal bloom in the water near the Toledo Water Intake in Lake Erie is one of 34 University of Toledo research projects being presented this week at the annual conference of the International Association of Great Lakes Research.

The study, which measures the algal bloom over 24 hours in rough and calm waters, is entering its second year. The goal is to make recommendations to water plant operators on the best time to pump water and reduce intake exposure to microcystin.

Last year, Ken Gibbons pulled up a water sample using a long, white tube that reaches the lake bottom. The water was emptied into the orange bucket held by Dr. Thomas Bridgeman, UT algae researcher and professor of ecology.

“This has the possibility to provide a practical way to protect the public drinking water,” Dr. Thomas Bridgeman, UT algae researcher and professor of ecology, said. “We want to develop a model that tells the water utilities where to expect the algae to be and when to pump more or less to avoid it.”

Graduate student researcher Eva Kramer will present the research, which is titled “Avoiding Harmful Algal Blooms at Toledo’s Drinking Water Intake by Observing Vertical Distribution and Migration,” during poster presentations Wednesday, May 17.

“It’s inspiring to be surrounded by hundreds of people working to understand, protect and restore the Great Lakes from a broad range of backgrounds,” said Kramer, who is pursuing a master’s degree in ecology. “I look forward to hearing their stories and learning from their successes and struggles.”

UT researchers take regular samples near the Toledo Water Intake in Lake Erie.

The annual conference of the International Association of Great Lakes Research is taking place from Monday, May 15, through Friday, May 19, at the Cobo Center in Detroit.

UT researchers will present from diverse areas of study, including economics; engineering; environmental sciences; chemistry and biochemistry; geography and planning; and medical microbiology and immunology.

A full list of the UT researchers and their projects can be found at utoledo.edu/nsm/lec/news/abstracts.html.

Dr. Carol Stepien, Distinguished University Professor of Ecology, and Dr. Kevin Czajkowski, professor and director of the UT Center for Geographic Information Sciences and Applied Geographics, organized a special session titled “Pathways for Invasions Into the Great Lakes: Detection, Monitoring and New Technology” that will run from 8 a.m. to noon Wednesday, May 17. Stepien and Czajkowski work with bait shops and fishermen for invasive species prevention.

PhD student researcher Alison Brandel, who works in the lab of Dr. Jason Huntley, associate professor of medical microbiology and immunology, will present a talk titled “Isolation and Characterization of Lake Erie Bacteria That Degrade the Microcystin Toxin MC-LR” Friday, May 19, at 10:40 a.m. during the session titled “Lake Erie Harmful Algal Bloom Research Initiatives: Field to Faucet and Beyond.”

During that same session, Dr. Kevin Egan, associate professor of economics, will present “Benefit-Cost Analysis for Policy Options (e.g. Fertilizer Fee, Wetlands) to Reduce Nutrient Runoff” Friday, May 19, at 8 a.m.

Water quality is a major research focus at the University. With $12.5 million in active grants underway, UT is studying algal blooms, invasive species such as Asian carp, and pollutants, and looking for pathways to restore the greatest natural resource for future generations to ensure communities continue to have access to safe drinking water.

Researchers and students help to protect the public drinking water supply for the greater Toledo area throughout summer algal bloom season by conducting water sampling to alert water treatment plant operators of any toxins heading toward the water intake. UT’s 28-foot research vessel enables the University to partner with the city of Toledo and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to monitor the health of the lake and provide real-time data.

The UT Lake Erie Center is a research and educational facility focused on environmental conditions and aquatic resources in Maumee Bay and western Lake Erie as a model for the Great Lakes and aquatic ecosystems worldwide.