Integrating microbial genomics, chemistry, and ecosystem processes to understand harmful algal blooms

Lake Erie algal bloom by Tom Archer, Source: Michigan Sea Grant


Gregory Dick, U-M Earth and Environmental Sciences, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Thomas Johengen, U-M Cooperative Inst. for Limnology and Ecosystems Research
Vincent Denef, U-M Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Additional Core Team Members

David Sherman, U-M School of Pharmacy;
Rose Cory, U-M Earth and Environmental Sciences;
Gary Fahnenstiel, U-M Water Center;
U-M Ecology and Evolutionary Biology: Melissa Duhaime, George Kling, Tim James;
NOAA-GLERL: Steven Ruberg, Tim Davis

Project Summary

Harmful algal blooms (HABs) are a global threat to freshwater ecosystems, water resources, and human health. The interplay of microbial, ecological, and chemical processes causes toxin production, formation of lake “dead zones”, and proliferation of disease-causing organisms. Further, a confluence of factors spanning multiple disciplines such as agricultural practices, climate change, and hydrologic conditions have set the stage for increasing the frequency, duration, and toxicity of HABs.

This project will contribute solutions to this problem by integrating new approaches to a local natural laboratory, Lake Erie, which experienced the largest HAB in recorded history in 2011. The project assembles a world-class research team to integrate methods and add perspectives from diverse disciplines, building a unique capacity for understanding the causes and consequences of HABs. This approach complements and extends existing freshwater capabilities in climate and hydrology at both U-M and a local federal partner, NOAA-GLERL.

The project will increase the breadth and depth of freshwater research at U-M by creating a team of 11 researchers from 5 U-M units and a federal agency, bringing cutting-edge genomics and chemistry and adding entirely new dimensions while building upon existing strengths and programs. Project results will be synthesized and disseminated with a publicly available database, and a capstone symposium to highlight findings and launch new initiatives. Together with recently funded and proposed projects, this novel approach will poise U-M to be a leader in HABs and related freshwater research and open new avenues for external funding.