NOAA prioritizes research of harmful algal blooms

$15.2 million investment in ocean science and biological impacts

Environmental & Science Engineering Magazine reports that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is funding projects to help combat harmful algal blooms and the $100 million in annual damage they cause. The production of toxins can damage ecosystems and and threaten human and animal health by contaminating drinking water supplies.

About $12.4 million will be distributed as NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) grants.

“Through NCCOS, NOAA continues to fund the latest scientific research to support managers and coastal communities across the country trying to cope with increasing and recurring toxic algae that continue to affect environmental and human health,” announced David Kidwell, a competitive research program director at NOAA.

Projects include an optimized early warning program and web-based mapping system to mitigate the impact of HABs on shellfish in the Pacific Northwest. In particular, rapid toxin screening protocols in seawater and the determination of threshold levels of shellfish-killing HABs that harm or kill bivalve shellfish will be investigated.

Carl Gouldman, Director of NOAA’s Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) Office stated, “IOOS will continue to leverage local and national resources and expertise to identify innovative methods to address coastal hazards like HABs which pose a threat to lives and livelihoods everywhere.”

IOOS is also allocating $2.8 million for projects under the National Harmful Algal Bloom Observing Network, which uses high-level regional analysis of existing efforts to monitor and forecast HABS, identifying gaps in observational capabilities.

Eight IOOS regional associations will receive a combined $1.5 million for two new and five continuing pilot programs to support the detection, forecasting, and monitoring of harmful algal blooms. Some of these projects include observation systems in California, the Gulf of Mexico and Lake Erie.