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December 14, 2022

Southeast CASC supported researchers are identifying and providing updated information on the occurrences of harmful algal blooms in the Southeast U.S. while introducing students to the fun of field studies.

Harmful algal blooms are a growing environmental concern in the Southeast, but traditional lecture materials have yet to catch up with ongoing research efforts. This creates a knowledge gap about the effects of harmful algal blooms on water quality in urban streams and ecosystems. However, a Southeast CASC supported teacher and student at Tennessee State University are bridging this gap by studying the impact of harmful algal blooms on streams under historic climate conditions and what that might mean for stream ecosystems today.  

Their research found that the toxins which often lead to harmful algal blooms today, were also present in mollusk shells from seventy million years ago. While climate conditions were warmer seventy million years ago than they are now, modern climate projects indicate the climate is moving towards these warmer temperatures once again. These findings suggest that more frequent harmful algal blooms, along with decreased water quality, could be seen as the climate continues to change. 

Research experiences like this one allows students to receive hands-on experience in understanding the connection between harmful algal blooms and their own communities. Not only does this allow the next generation of scientists to be exposed to emerging environmental issues, but it has given the research team an opportunity to incorporate their findings into public outreach and educational materials to help communities adapt to these potential impacts.  

This work is supported by the Southeast CASC project, “Clarifying Science Needs for Determining the Impact of Climate Change on Harmful Algal Blooms in Southeastern United States”.

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