Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2020ME093G

Investigation of Harmful Algal Bloom effects on Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning (ASP) through Decision Support Tools in Connected Watershed-Estuary Systems

Institute: Maine
USGS Grant Number:
Year Established: 2020 Start Date: 2020-09-01 End Date: 2023-08-31
Total Federal Funds: $82,685 Total Non-Federal Funds: $82,783

Principal Investigators: Dr. Lauren Ross

Abstract: Land-sea connections in coastal areas are important drivers of waterway pollution problems and may be linked to harmful algal blooms (HABs) of concern in the Northeastern USA. Limited data resources and knowledge about the environmental conditions, connectivity, and biophysical dynamics in complicated non-tidal/tidal boundary areas limit development of decision tools for natural resource managers to prevent or respond to the problems. New forms of information and decision tools are necessary to address these challenges because of simultaneous stress from increases in coastal populations, demands for environmental protection and public safety, and forecast changes to climate affecting water quality conditions. Managers in Maine generally have concerns related to water borne pathogens that can cause public health problems related to water contact and shellfisheries, inspiring over six years of our solutions-driven research on land-sea connections driving pollution problems in the region. The research has led to new Coastal Pollution Vulnerability Assessment (CPVA) tools and other supporting information. Our work leading to the CPVA has helped industries and state agencies begin to reframe strategies to monitor and manage coastal areas by better identifying problematic conditions and limiting unnecessary restrictions related to shellfishing and recreation activities and businesses. Managers have more recently become increasingly concerned with amnesic shellfish poisoning (ASP) produced by the toxic diatom pseudo-nitzchia, and potentially fatal to humans, first identified on the coasts and estuaries of Maine in 2016. We believe that the data, knowledge, partnerships, and adaptive resources we have created related to land-sea connections in Maine provide an exceptional foundation for new work focused on the prediction of HAB events in the region. Accordingly, our project goal is to better quantify and describe conditions coincident with HAB events, particularly ASP, in Maine coastal areas, and to develop predictive forecasting tools for local policy makers to guide ASP sampling locations and management responses. We will use a validated numerical model of eight connected Maine estuaries, including 10 rivers, to help understand hydrodynamic conditions favorable for ASP production and to develop a continually running forecast of estuarine and fluvial hydrodynamics, water quality (salinity) combined with coastal particle tracking as a proxy for ASP transport. We will partner with local agencies and community stakeholders to design the predictive tools and data resources to customize applications related to shellfishing and recreation activities.