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UT scientists, students help U.S. Geological Survey develop model to predict algal bloom toxins

Water quality researchers and students at The University of Toledo Lake Erie Center who make daily E. coli forecasts for the public beach at Maumee Bay State Park are helping the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) develop a model to estimate the level of harmful algal blooms in Ohio waters.

Sampling is underway for the USGS-led project at seven water treatment plant intakes and four recreational sites throughout the state, including the public beach at Maumee Bay State Park.

Kevin Corbin, UT senior, left, Ryan Jackwood, UT PhD student, and Jessica Reker, a senior at Xavier University, collected water samples at Maumee Bay State Park.

Kevin Corbin, UT senior, left, Ryan Jackwood, UT PhD student, and Jessica Reker, a senior at Xavier University, collected water samples at Maumee Bay State Park.

A USGS scientist joined the UT team to collect samples and other data earlier this month.

“We are helping the USGS build a database in order to be able to make real-time predictions for toxins, like microcystin, in Lake Erie and inland lakes in northeast and southwest Ohio using environmental factors such as turbidity, pH, phycocyanin and water level change, instead of waiting for test results,” Pam Struffolino, UT Lake Erie Center research operations manager, said. “The goal is to use the standard toxin-measuring methods to verify the model — similar to how we developed our swimming safety nowcasts for bacteria levels.”

“Site-specific models are needed to estimate the serious public health concern from toxin concentrations at a water intake or beach,” said Donna Francy, a USGS hydrologist and water-quality specialist. “Models help estimate toxin concentrations so that swimmers and boaters can be warned and water treatment plants can take measures to avoid or appropriately treat the raw water.”

Scientists are scheduled to collect data at the sites several times a week through algal bloom season this year. This marks the third year of collecting samples for the project.

For more information about the project, click here.