UVM To Study What Blue-Green Algae Does To Communities With Strong Ties To The Water

Nov 8, 2017

Researchers at the University of Vermont have received a $598,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to study the effects of cyanobacteria, otherwise known as blue-green algae. It will also take into account the human reaction to those blooms.

The grant will fund two branches of research, the first looks at the links between human health and blue green algae blooms, and the second looks at how the community responds to public information about those links and whether or not it leads to political and policy action.

"In this project we're going to be collecting fish, perch in this case, from the lake and testing whether the toxins that are present in the cyanobacteria are present and are found in the fish tissue," said Dr. Rachelle Gould, professor at UVM Rubenstein School for Environment and Natural Resources. "The second component is digging in a little bit to the research that sort of emerging on the potential connection between cyanobacteria and ALS. It's still emerging research. It's really unclear exactly what's going on so that that sort of phenomenon or correlation has been observed. And this research is really looking into the mechanism."

Another component of the research looks at the non-material ways that nature affects people. "People's lives have been very connected with Lake Champlain. It's a big part of the culture here and so we're looking at does the change in the lake, specifically the blooms, does that affect people's well-being in non-material ways?" Gould said.
 

"People's lives have been very connected with Lake Champlain. It's a big part of the culture here and so we're looking at does the change in the lake, specifically the blooms, does that affect people's well-being in non-material ways?" - Rachelle Gould, UVM's Rubenstein School for the Environment and Natural Resources

The research will be based in the community of St. Albans. The biophysical research will focus on St. Albans Bay and the social components will focus on the people in the community.

"One of the big questions is how do communities deal with this information. How do communities decide how to take action where to take action what is that process like? So the second half of the research focuses on that question," she said.

The researchers will be working with community partners as well and one of those partners is the local community action group which work with low-income Vermonters.

"This is a community that's perhaps often talked to in consideration of environmental degradation," Gould said. "We're just really interested to understand more perspectives from that community particularly the first portion of the research that looks at fish that are being used for subsistence that are that are being eaten, that is potentially more of a concern to people in that community."

The grant funds three years of research. The results will be shared with policymakers and the public.