Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) Cooperative Matching Funds Projects

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New projects from coast to coast will advance the research on harmful algal blooms (HABs) in lakes, reservoirs and rivers. The vivid emerald-colored algal blooms are caused by cyanobacteria, which can produce cyanotoxins that threaten human health and aquatic ecosystems and can cause major economic damage.

In Fiscal Year 2019, Congress provided the USGS National Water Quality Program (NWQP) with additional resources to assess HABs. The NWQP is funding 11 projects that advance real-time monitoring, remote sensing, and use of molecular techniques to identify and predict the occurrence of HABs and the toxins they produce. These new approaches will provide information that can act as an “early warning” of HABs, assist water-treatment plant operators in decision making, and build our knowledge of the cyanobacterial communities that cause HABs and the cyanotoxins produced.

Projects selected for funding

Continental US Map of USGS HABs Cooperarative Matching Funds Projects locations

HAB CMF Project Detail Map: California Bay Delta

California Bay-Delta—California

Contact: Brian Bergamaschi    

Managing HABs in California's Delta: Real-Time Detection Using a Newly Developed Sensor (funded in 2019). In collaboration with partners, this project will improve methods for detection of HABs and map water-quality conditions conducive to HAB formation across the California Bay-Delta by developing a method for sensor-based measurement of bloom density. A new sensor-based approach for HABs detection is necessary in environments with elevated turbidity and tidal hydrodynamics such as the California-Bay Delta to provide real-time data to guide water-delivery and environmental-management decisions.







HAB CMF Project Detail Map: Delaware

Delaware River and Chesapeake Bay Basins—Maryland, Delaware, and Washington D.C.

ContactMark Nardi

Application of Landsat Data to Map Cyanobacteria Blooms in the Delaware River Basin (funded in 2019). This project will map the occurrence and distribution of cyanobacteria blooms starting in 2000 to present in the Delaware River Basin, providing a detailed picture of HAB occurrence in time and space. The mapping will be based on existing Landsat (satellite) data and in-situ water samples, and the resulting digital maps can be used by predictive models as input or for calibration and validation.








HAB CMF Project Detail Map: Idaho

Idaho Water Bodies—Idaho

ContactStephen Hundt 

Sentinel-2 and Landsat-8 algal indices delivery system for Idaho (funded in 2019). This project aims to provide water-resource managers with high-spatial resolution data suitable for detecting algal blooms in the large rivers and small and mid-sized lakes throughout Idaho. The data, from high-resolution Sentinel-2 and Landsat 8 satellite images, will include algal and chlorophyll-a detection indices suitable for operational use. The high-resolution images will enable detection of potential HABs occurrence for many new water bodies and will add greater detail to identification of spatial occurrence of blooms in larger lakes.








HAB CMF Project Detail Map: New England

Cape Cod, Lake Champlain, and Central Maine—Vermont, Maine, and Massachusetts

ContactCharles W. Culbertson

Evaluating Environmental DNA Lake Assessments (funded in 2019). New molecular genetic techniques for sensitive detection of cyanobacteria will be applied to New England lakes and glacial kettle ponds on Cape Cod. Time-series analysis will be used to identify conditions leading to HAB development, including changes in the microbial community structure, and the time involved. The outcome of this project will provide resource managers and stakeholders a robust tool for the early detection of cyanobacteria associated with HAB formation and the presence of genes responsible for cyanotoxin production.






HAB CMF Project Detail Map: Finger Lakes

New York Finger Lakes—New York

ContactGuy M. Foster

Cyanobacterial Community Structure and Function in the Finger Lakes (funded in 2019). Genetic analysis to characterize cyanobacterial community composition (“who is there”) and function (“what are they doing”) will be added to advanced sensor technology and discrete water-quality data being used in Owasco and Seneca Lakes. The genetic analysis will add an important dimension to the ongoing advanced water-quality monitoring program designed to shed light on environmental conditions associated with bloom formation and cyanotoxin production.


Solid Phase Adsorption Toxin Tracking (SPATT) in the Finger Lakes (funded in 2019). SPATT samplers, which adsorb cyanotoxins in the water column for analysis,  are passive and time-integrative, capturing ephemeral toxin events that can be missed by traditional discrete sampling. In this project, SPATT samplers will be added to the advanced data-collection platforms on Owasco and Seneca Lakes.



HAB CMF Project Detail Map: Oregon

North Santiam and McKenzie River Basin reservoirs—Oregon

ContactKurt Carpenter   

Enhanced Monitoring of Harmful Algal Blooms—New Tools to Inform Dam Operations and Drinking Water Treatment (funded in 2019). This project will provide dam operators with real-time data on total chlorophyll, phycocyanin, and other HAB indicators, and a web-based profile analysis tool to understand HAB dynamics in Detroit Lake (North Santiam River Basin) and Cougar Reservoir (McKenzie River Basin). The information will identify the location of cyanobacteria in the water column, allow dam operators to tailor releases to minimize impacts from HABs, and provide drinking-water treatment plant operators with advance notice of cyanobacteria in raw water supplies.

Learn more about these studies here.






HAB CMF Project Detail Map: Tappan Lake

Tappan Lake—Ohio

ContactDonna Francy   

Models for Estimating Microcystin Concentrations in Source Waters at the Cadiz Water Treatment Plant (funded in 2019). For this study, the relations between phycocyanin and chlorophyll—pigments associated with cyanobacteria—and environmental data will be used in a quantitative model to aid in choosing among water-treatment options. The study will focus on continuous and discrete data collected at the intake to a water-treatment plant from Tappan Lake, and builds on an existing collaboration with the Cadiz Water Treatment Plant and the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District.








HAB CMF Project Detail Map: Trinity, Sabine, and Red River

Texas Water Bodies—Texas

ContactChristopher Churchill   

Development of Near Real-Time Satellite Monitoring of HABs and CyanoHABs in Inland Water Bodies (funded in 2019). Remote sensing by satellites is a promising method for real-time detection of cyanobacteria over large areas, and this project will use field data from the Trinity, Sabine, and Red River Basins, among other water bodies throughout Texas, to adapt, enhance, and validate remote-sensing methods using high performance geoprocessing. A web-based application will be developed that allows users to identify—and possibly quantify—HABs.








HAB CMF Project Detail Map: Upper Midwest

Upper Midwest—Select river basins in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and North Dakota

ContactVictoria Christensen   

Beyond Microcystin (funded in 2019). Many cyanotoxins other than microcystin are present in HABs—this study will use solid phase adsorption toxin tracking (SPATT) technology and phycocyanin sensors within and outside areas such as Voyageurs National Park, Pipestone National Monument, and St. Croix Scenic Riverway to detect as many as 32 cyanotoxins. The results will shed light on the effect of differences in geography and setting on cyanobacteria and toxin production.