COLUMBUS — 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 fourth-year 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 50 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 fourth-year report reveals that the state of Ohio continues to benefit from the initiative:

Early warning systems and forecasts of bloom size and location are giving water treatment plants a high-resolution picture of what could be affecting the drinking water they draw from Lake Erie.

Researchers are working directly with water treatment plant operators to provide practical guidance about producing safe drinking water for cities and towns dealing with algal toxins. They have also filed preliminary patents for some of their technologies.

HABRI research is examining lesser-known potential sources of algal toxin exposure and its impacts on human health.

Researchers are illustrating nutrient runoff from farm fields for the agricultural community.

HABRI has driven information sharing and priority setting between universities and agencies, positioning Ohio to better prevent and manage future crises through ongoing collaborations.

“We want to make sure that our water is as clean as it can be, and working with Ohio Sea Grant, we’re doing everything we can to maximize our ability to treat and provide safe and clean drinking water,” said Kelly Frey, sanitary engineer for Ottawa County. “I’m better prepared through this research initiative because of the confidence that we have gained. Knowing that you have support from the researchers, from the community, knowing that you can talk to them on a one-on-one level, that’s just fantastic.”

HABRI is funded by the Ohio Department of Higher Education, with $7.5 million made available for four rounds of research funding (before matching funds by participating universities) since 2015. Ohio Sea Grant manages the projects, which also include a $500,000 match from OEPA in 2018. Progress updates from the most recent 21 funded projects make up this year’s report, with final results expected in late 2020.

“Colleges and universities around Ohio are making positive contributions to our state each and every day,” said ODHE Chancellor Randy Gardner. “The Harmful Algal Bloom Research Initiative is a model of collaborative problem-solving that we should strive to replicate wherever possible. I am so encouraged to see how our higher education assets are being used, alongside other state and local partners, to address real issues that are facing Ohioans.”

HABRI comprises 54 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, 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 go.osu.edu/habri. The report can be downloaded directly at ohioseagrant.osu.edu/p/v766l/view.

The Ohio Sea Grant College Program is part of 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 ohioseagrant.osu.edu.

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