You probably know that harmful algal blooms (HABs) have become a common sight on Cayuga Lake. These blooms of cyanobacteria can produce toxins that are dangerous to humans, pets and other animals. The toxins in these blooms and the uncertainty of when and where they will occur make HABs a threat to Cayuga Lake as a natural resource for drinking water, recreation, and tourism. HABs can be difficult to identify without proper training and the analytical tools needed to distinguish HABs from false alarms. A notification system is needed to alert lake users in an affected area that an immediate risk is present. The Community Science Institute (CSI), in collaboration with Cayuga Lake Watershed Network and Discover Cayuga Lake, developed the Harmful Algal Bloom Monitoring Program to meet this need!
With a large team of dedicated volunteers, we have been raising awareness about HABs, collecting and analyzing bloom samples and notifying the public when and where a bloom occurs. The over 90 “HABs Harrier” volunteers of the program survey roughly 50 miles of shoreline per week from early July through late September. Volunteers are trained by CSI, with support from New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, to recognize HABs and to report, collect and transport samples to the CSI lab with chain of custody documentation. CSI lab staff analyze each bloom sample for the types of cyanobacteria and the concentrations of chlorophyll and microcystin, the most common cyanotoxin in New York. As we compile data each year, we build our capacity to spot trends in HABs occurrence that can help inform management strategies by local governments.
We hope you find this work worth supporting. This program is funded in part by Tompkins County and by a grant from the Fred L. Emerson Foundation. We need your help to close the shortfall in our program budget. Please make a donation today!
Want to learn more about what we do?
Check out the HABs Monitoring information page on our website. Stay tuned to this season’s HABs map for the latest HABs reports on Cayuga Lake (updated almost daily from July-Sept.)! Our HABs-focused Fall 2018 Water Bulletin and Fall 2019 Water Bulletin summarize observations from previous years.
Monitoring HABs is one of the many ways that we partner with communities in our region to protect water. CSI does year-round stream water quality monitoring with two dozen teams of volunteers. We’ve assembled over 90,000 pieces of water quality data through our free to use database at www.database.communityscience.org. Our database also houses the results of our groundwater testing program, which established a baseline against the potential impacts of hydrofracking.