Harmful Algal Bloom Program

Harmful Algal Blooms in the Finger Lakes

  • Harmful Algal Blooms are cyanobacterial overgrowths influenced by climate change and nutrient pollution from agricultural practices. These overgrowths lead to depletion of dissolved oxygen in water, and in some cases lead to the release of toxins into water. Not only do these affect populations of animals and their ecosystem, but they also affect human health and enterprises such as tourism (people really don’t like when their water is green, which is understandable).
  • Multiple toxins can be produced during the HABs. Among these toxins, Microcystin is the most intensively studied cyanotoxin, and was chosen by the EPA when monitoring toxin levels for drinking (Limit of 0.3 µg/L) and recreational waters. Microcystin is a hepatotoxin (liver toxin), and the most common producer of it is Microcystis. The toxins from these blooms, if ingested in sufficient concentration and quantity, can lead to permanent damage to the human hepatic system.

  • These blooms have become an increasingly large issue in the Finger Lakes Region, especially in Cayuga Lake, which as of now stands as the lake with the most bloom incidents per year in the State of New York.

How does our work, well… work?

If you decide to join our volunteer team, we will provide you with one of these.

You will pick up samples with a 500mL polyethylene bottle we will provide you, and we will teach you how to utilize the microscope and send us amplified pictures of samples from your designated lake.

Once we receive these pictures, we analyze them using ImageJ software and predict toxin concentration results.

Full protocol and instructions can be found in these short videos:

  1. Video: demo for the sample processing and image collection process: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1zO2XFz2Dch9m7aoVMN4kWRniG0IxB4hf/view?usp=sharing
  2. Video: demo for image submission via google form: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1q4-Pu3r0wPyNVgoF8X7S7-WtVea5_ZTd/view?usp=sharing

Photo Intake Google Form:







Interested in joining us? Check out our Volunteer Hub!

Please read this document, as it contains access to all important tutorials and documents for volunteers (which are also available one by one later in this page):