The Cyanobacteria Monitoring Collective (CMC) conference was held at UNH’s Durham campus in January. The CMC, which includes professional scientists, citizen scientists and trained water professionals, met to discuss ongoing efforts to track blooms and strategize about ways to educate the public. The conference was a combined effort of UNH Extension, the CMC, the EPA, the UNH Department of Biological Sciences and the UNH Center for Freshwater Biology.
Cyanobacteria toxins, which are found in freshwater lakes throughout the world, can cause health problems in humans ranging from skin irritations to damage of the liver and nervous system. These toxins can also be harmful or fatal for animals, including dogs that drink or swim in contaminated water.
Sixty-nine people attended and an additional 18 joined through video chat from across New England and as far away as Colorado. Attendees represented environmental nonprofits, town and city departments, state and federal organizations and Penobscot Indian Nation — more than 50 organizations in all.
Extension Specialist Shane Bradt helped organize the conference and was one of the presenters. Bradt works in the areas of water quality and geospatial technologies in addition to teaching for UNH's biological sciences and geography departments. He earned his master’s and doctoral degrees at UNH studying cyanobacteria under the mentorship of UNH professor Jim Haney. Bradt has been instrumental in convening stakeholders around this issue to develop consistent methods for both short-term cyanobacteria bloom detection and long-term monitoring of cyanobacteria populations.
Beyond monitoring and generating awareness, the collaborative is also trying to proactively prevent blooms from occurring in the first place. “We look at ways to lessen the problem, which means thinking about the conditions that allow the blooms to flourish,” Bradt said. Decreasing the amount of nutrient run-off into lakes requires looking at the activity that occurs near the water like paving, fertilization, tree cutting and septic system installments.