Temporal and Spatial Distribution of Harmful Algal Blooms in the Western Basin of Lake Erie

Harmful algal blooms (HABs) in the western basin of Lake Erie are detrimental to the ecosystem, reducing water quality and affecting drinking water for people in the region. Severe HABs in Lake Erie in the 1960s and 1970s resulted in the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement in 1972. Since then, water quality has greatly improved; however in the 1990s, Lake Erie saw the blooms return. This has been attributed to factors such as zebra mussels’ bio-transforming nutrients, climate change, shifts in the form of phosphorus and lake sediment as an internal loading source. Another hypothesis is that the community composition is shifting to more toxic forms of cyanobacteria. To test this, water and sediment collection will be carried out at different depths and locations in the western basin. DNA extraction, nutrient analysis and microscopic analysis will be completed. Results will be used to monitor how and when HABs become severe.

Jessica Owen
Faculty Supervisor: 
Douglas Haffner
Partner University: