Harmful Algal Bloom Research Initiative Awards $1.9 Million to Eight Ohio Universities

COLUMBUS, Ohio (2016-02-24) — 

The Ohio Department of Higher Education’s (ODHE) Harmful Algal Bloom Research Initiative (HABRI), jointly managed by The Ohio State University and the University of Toledo, today announced $1.9 million in funding awards for eight Ohio universities.

This funding will support 13 collaborative research projects directed at providing the state of Ohio with comprehensive solutions for the harmful algal blooms (HABs) that affect Lake Erie, Grand Lake St. Mary’s, Buckeye Lake and other fresh water bodies in and around Ohio.

Each project funded by HABRI consists of multiple university partners, and all ODHE funds have been matched at least one-to-one by participating universities. This is the second round of HABRI awards supported by ODHE. The first $2 million in awards, released in February 2015, supported 18 interdisciplinary, multi-university research projects currently in progress.

 “HABRI was created in the aftermath of the 2014 Toledo water crisis to provide near-term solutions for the full suite of issues surrounding harmful algal blooms,” said Chancellor John Carey. “Guided by the technical needs of state agencies at the front lines of the HABs crisis, Ohio research universities are the engines for creating new knowledge, new technologies and new approaches to give us both short-term assistance and long-term solutions.”

HABRI-funded research focuses on tracking the sources and movement of harmful algal blooms, ensuring safe drinking water, protecting public health and providing critical education and outreach for stakeholders dealing with both upstream and downstream HABs issues. Ongoing activities funded by the first round of HABRI include the development of an early warning system for bloom hazards in the western Lake Erie basin, a phosphorus fingerprinting technique to determine the origin of nutrient runoff, alternative water treatment tools to detect microcystin and other toxic algal byproducts, and a better understanding of the exposure of humans to toxins from fish and fresh produce. 

Thirteen researchers will lead the newly funded projects in three focus areas:

  • Bloom Sources and Movement: Thomas Bridgeman (University of Toledo), George Bullerjahn (Bowling Green State University), Laura Johnson (Heidelberg University), Jay Martin (Ohio State University) and Mike McKay (Bowling Green State University)
  • Produce Safe Drinking Water: Soryong Chae (University of Cincinnati), Teresa Cutright (University of Akron), Glenn Lipscomb (University of Toledo) and Allison MacKay (Ohio State University)
  • Protect Public Health: April Ames (University of Toledo), Jason Huntley (University of Toledo), Jiyoung Lee (Ohio State University) and Stuart Ludsin (Ohio State University)

Other project collaborators include representatives from Central State University, Sinclair Community College, the University of Michigan, the University of Amsterdam, Charles River Laboratory, the City of Akron, U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service and U.S. Geological Survey.

Funding awards were approved by Chancellor Carey based on the recommendations of a statewide HABRI proposal review board that consisted of representatives of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA), Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA), Ohio Department of Health (ODH), National Wildlife Federation, Ottawa County Sanitary Engineering Department and the Ohio Sea Grant College Program.

“Directly engaging OEPA, ODA, ODNR and ODH in identifying research needs has been key to the success of HABRI so far,” Chancellor Carey said. “Aligning research with agency requirements puts the state in a better position to tackle the HABs problem today and other water issues tomorrow.”

HABRI is overseen by The Ohio State University and the University of Toledo. The initiative relies upon the Ohio Sea Grant College Program to coordinate the proposal process and the day-to-day management of projects.

The investments made by ODHE are intended to address the emerging water management challenges affecting both the state of Ohio and the Great Lakes region, to enhance collaboration among universities and outside laboratories and firms, and to provide the key systems, processes, technologies and products to address the critical issue of harmful algal blooms and stimulate new economic activities in the state.

“These awards to our universities also serve to train the next generation of Ohio scientists who will be called upon to address future environmental challenges,” Chancellor Carey said.

About the Ohio Department of Higher Education

The Ohio Department of Higher Education (formerly known as the Ohio Board of Regents) is a Cabinet-level agency for the Governor of the State of Ohio that oversees higher education for the state. The agency’s main responsibilities include authorizing and approving new degree programs, managing state-funded financial aid programs and developing and advocating policies to maximize higher education’s contributions to the state and its citizens.

Contact Information: 

Ohio Department of Higher Education Contact:
Jeff Robinson
Office: 614.752.9487
Email: jrobinson@highered.ohio.gov