The Cayuga Lake Harmful Algal Bloom (HABs) Monitoring Program had a busy start to the summer. On July 7th the first bloom on Cayuga Lake in 2019 was reported. In the following weeks, over 40 blooms have been reported and sampled by trained volunteers.
A harmful algal bloom that occurred on the southwest shores of Cayuga Lake on July 13th, 2019.
Now in its second year, the Cayuga Lake HABs Monitoring Program is being led by the Community Science Institute (CSI) in collaboration with the Cayuga Lake Watershed Network (CLWN) and Discover Cayuga Lake (DCL). The purpose of the program is to develop detailed information about the occurrence of HABs that could further scientific understanding and strategies for managing blooms. The program also serves to report cyanobacteria blooms (HABs) on Cayuga Lake and test bloom samples quickly in order to alert the public to possible health risks that these blooms may present.
The Cayuga Lake HABs Monitoring Program depends on a network of over 80 volunteers, titled HABs Harriers, who commit to monitoring sections of shoreline once per week from July through September. In June, HABs Harriers attend a two-hour training in HABs identification and sampling presented by CSI and the Finger Lakes HUB office of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC). This year HABs Harriers are monitoring over 47% of the Cayuga Lake shoreline, an impressive coverage for one of the largest Finger Lakes. This community of monitors includes staff at NY State Parks, as well as the Girl Scout and Boy Scout camps, who joined the program this year.
When a HABs Harrier observes a suspicious harmful algal bloom, they report the bloom and collect a sample that is immediately transported to the CSI lab in Ithaca. The lab uses microscopy to determine if cyanobacteria are present in the bloom sample. If they are, the sample is analyzed for total chlorophyll a, as a measure of bloom biomass, and for microcystin toxin. CSI reports the results of bloom analyses on the Cayuga Lake 2019 HABs Reporting Page. This reporting page features a master table of results and an interactive map displaying the locations, information, and test results for blooms occurring on Cayuga Lake.
New York is a national leader in addressing HABs with volunteer-based monitoring programs. While the Cayuga Lake HABs Monitoring Program is one of many in a state-wide effort to understand HABs occurrence and find ways to minimize risks to public health, it is the only program with its own certified lab capable of analyzing microcystin. Other programs send suspicious bloom samples to NYSDEC for microcystin analysis. NYSDEC maintains an online state-wide HABs reporting map called NYHABs that includes reports from all HABs monitoring programs in the state. CSI submits results from Cayuga Lake on a weekly basis for reporting on NYHABs.
The new NYHABs state-wide reporting map. HABs reports for Cayuga Lake are submitted by CSI to the NYSDEC weekly to be reported on NYHABs.
In 2018 the Cayuga Lake HABs Monitoring Program furthered the understanding of HABs on Cayuga Lake. Check out CSI’s interesting findings from the first year of bloom monitoring in the Fall 2018 Water Bulletin: Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) on Cayuga Lake.