The Maumee River during the September cyanobacterial bloom.
BGSU BIOLOGISTS LEAD RAPID RESPONSE TO SURPRISE ALGAE BLOOM IN MAUMEE RIVER
In late September, during an unusual heat wave, Toledoans became alarmed when the Maumee River turned a deep green, like a velvet ribbon snaking its way northeast to Lake Erie. The potentially toxic cyanobacterial bloom causing the murky discoloration, commonly referred to as blue-green algae, was also unusual in that these blooms typically occur in the lake and not the river, except for in spring and early summer. Memories of a toxic cyanobacterial bloom in 2014 that caused a water emergency in Toledo stirred concern for the area’s drinking water supply, and several municipal public water systems, including Napoleon, Bowling Green and Defiance, and food service industries such as the Campbell Soup Co. in Napoleon that use the Maumee River as a water source reached out for data on bloom conditions.
Bowling Green State University biologists swiftly created a plan to identify and quantify the cyanotoxins — toxins produced by cyanobacteria — as well as genetically quantify the potentially toxic cyanobacteria in this bloom to assess its risk to the regional water treatment plants and industries. Working with a team of collaborators from the University of Toledo, the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Defiance College, they drafted a Rapid Response Proposal and received funding from the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, to collect samples and conduct the analyses.
Leading the project was Dr. Timothy Davis, a new faculty member at BGSU but a longtime collaborator of Drs. Michael McKay, the Ryan Professor of Biological Sciences, and George Bullerjahn, Professor of Research Excellence. They and their colleagues on the Maumee River response have studied the algae situation in Lake Erie, including Sandusky Bay, for many years and were well positioned to divide up the necessary tasks, such as sampling and analysis.