UVM gets $598k grant to study algae

Courtesy photo
Cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, are found naturally in Lake Champlain and other Vermont waters where they grow with the help of high levels of phosphorous and nitrogen. Cyanobacteria can multiply quickly to form dense blooms, especially during warm days of summer and fall.

The University of Vermont has received a $598,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to investigate links between harmful algal blooms and human well-being, and to explore how a community along Lake Champlain works to take action based on scientific information about those links.

In lakes and ponds worldwide and in Vermont, cyanobacteria blooms, also known as blue-green algae, threaten water quality, ecosystem health, and human well-being.
“Science has demonstrated multiple links between cyanobacteria blooms and human health and well-being,” said lead principal investigator Rachelle Gould of UVM’s Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources. “This project explores links of emerging concern and then investigates how the community processes that information.”

The three-year project will combine natural and social sciences to study both the blooms’ impacts and the community responses to data about those impacts. A team of interdisciplinary researchers will investigate how algal toxins may travel in fish tissue and as aerosols, and how the blooms affect non-material aspects of well-being such as connection to place. The team will then analyze how communities process scientific information about these links to human well-being and how people feel empowered or disempowered to affect change.

The project will collaborate with communities in and around the city and town of St. Albans where St. Albans Bay has been a hotspot for cyanobacteria blooms.

Vermont U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy said he was pleased that UVM is a recipient. “I am proud that the EPA selected this project, based at the University of Vermont’s Rubenstein School, to help us learn more about how water pollution and algae blooms may affect our health and our communities,” he said in a statement.

The UVM grant was one of four funded, and part of more than $2 million awarded, by the EPA in October in the research area of Integrating Human Health and Well-Being with Ecosystem Services.

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