For residents on the coast of Lake Erie, summertime has too often become a season of potentially harmful algae blooms—those big, green clouds that appear on the surface of the water.
Algae has been an increasing problem in Lake Erie over the past decade, and they can create toxins that impact a critical source of drinking water, recreation, and fishing.
U-M professor Allison Steiner is leading a research team funded by the National Science Foundation that’s trying to pinpoint the main drivers of harmful algal blooms, how to better predict them, and how to develop usable information for coastal stakeholders.
Steiner is giving an overview of the project this week at the Coalition for National Science Funding’s annual Capitol Hill exhibition.
“We will be highlighting this interdisciplinary project that brings together physical and social scientists to develop strategies for reducing harmful algal blooms in western Lake Erie,” said Steiner, associate professor in the department of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering. “We are understanding how climate influences freshwater ecosystems, and have scientists and stakeholders working together to improve coastal decision-making and sustainability.”
The team includes researchers from U-M, Michigan State University, Arizona State University, The Ohio State University, North Carolina State University, and the University of Connecticut.
Steiner and the researchers are working closely with industry and community partners in water treatment, beach management, recreational fishing, and agricultural policy to shape the project’s goals and impact. Ongoing workshops and stakeholder meetings will keep the two-way communication going throughout the project.
The goal is to make this model easy to replicate for other groups dealing with similar issues.
“Our approach is transferable and our results applicable to other coastal areas where stakeholders are trying to manage complex ecological systems,” Steiner said.
— Terry Kosdrosky, communications manager for public engagement