NOAA awards $10.2 million for harmful algal bloom research

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will fund 12 new research projects around the U.S.  to better understand and predict harmful algal blooms (HABs) and improve our collective response to them.

NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) is allocating $10.2 million in fiscal 2019 to fund HAB research across the nation. Approximately $8.4 million of that will cover the first year of new three- to five-year projects, and $1.78 million will go to three-year projects already in process. Funded under NOAA’s ECOHAB and MERHAB programs, new projects will begin in Alaska, California, Chesapeake Bay, Florida, the Great Lakes, New England and the Pacific Northwest. A full list of the new grant awards is available online.

Award recipients will conduct research to identify conditions that increase bloom toxicity; model toxin movement from the water into shellfish, fish and marine mammals; and improve toxin monitoring and forecasts. NCCOS research programs help states and regions around the nation mitigate the effects of HABs, which can include contaminated drinking water, fisheries closures and disruption to recreation and tourism.

Among the new and continuing projects in Florida, totaling $2.9 million in 2019, will be efforts to help the state continue to improve how it monitors and manages HABs. From 2017 to 2019, severe blooms of Karenia brevis, also known as red tide, occurred throughout SW Florida, contributing to the deaths of fish, turtles, marine mammals, and birds; caused neurotoxic shellfish poisoning, and even led to respiratory irritation in beachgoers.

“Through NCCOS, NOAA is funding the latest scientific research to support environmental managers trying to cope with increasing and recurring toxic algae that continue to affect environmental and human health and coastal economies,” said NCCOS director Steven Thur. “Improved understanding of these coastal HAB threats will lead to better bloom observation and prediction, and help to mitigate effects along the U.S. coast.”

Prior NOAA-funded research on HABs has produced tools that managers now routinely use to detect, forecast and respond to the blooms and their toxins.

NOAA’s NCCOS delivers ecosystem science solutions for NOAA’s National Ocean Service and its partners, bringing research, scientific information and tools to sustain thriving coastal communities and economies.

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