Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2019KY290B

Predicting harmful cyanobacteria blooms in central Kentucky lakes

Institute: Kentucky
Year Established: 2019 Start Date: 2019-06-17 End Date: 2020-06-16
Total Federal Funds: $9,988 Total Non-Federal Funds: $20,136

Principal Investigators: Jason W. Marion

Abstract: Cyanobacteria may adversely impact aquatic ecosystems through oxygen depletion and cyanotoxin production. These cyanotoxins can also harm human health and livestock. In recent years, cyanobacteria blooms have been observed in several of Kentucky’s lakes that serve multiple uses including being drinking water supplies and recreational waters. In Kentucky, there is a need to be able to rapidly measure and predict cyanotoxin concentrations in our lakes. In addition, further studies on the role of phosphorus (P), nitrogen (N), and potentially other factors such as N:P ratios and water transparency are needed for informing bloom prevention. For this proposed study, we will study water from four Central Kentucky lakes (Taylorsville, Guist Creek, Lake Reba, and Wilgreen Lake) on 15 different occasions between May 2019 through November 2019, and potentially other lakes during known active bloom activity and/or citizen science engagement. Specifically, we will determine if microcystin and anatoxin-a concentrations can be determined by simpler methods than 96-well ELISA microplates by using rapidly and simply measured phycocyanin and chlorophyll a by fluorometery, nutrients by Hach methods, and simple dipstick-based toxin levels with the AbraScan digital strip reader. As a secondary goal (and as a contingency if no blooms naturally occur), we will use the nutrient data from the sampling effort, coupled with a simple laboratory-based (microcosm) study using spiked water samples of N, P, and N+P fertilizers, to understand the relationship between nutrients, phycocyanin, and cyanotoxin development in these four Kentucky lakes. Overall, we will (1) deliver meaningful undergraduate research experiences to at least two or three Eastern Kentucky University undergraduate students, (2) obtain valuable water quality data on four Kentucky lakes over 15 weeks, (3) characterize toxin concentrations by 96-well ELISA plates and simpler methods using 20 or 60 water samples, (4) engage at least once with citizen scientists at an area lake, and (5) publish our findings in at least one reputable peer-reviewed water-related journal with an impact factor greater than 2.0. Ultimately, we expect that phycocyanin and N:P ratios will be associated with cyantoxin levels in the four Kentucky study lakes. The findings may further facilitate easier bloom surveillance by public agencies and non-scientists in Kentucky using the simple methods to be evaluated.