Smart Lake Series: Harmful Algal Bloom Early Warning System

We would like to gather momentum and create a movement for smart great lakes.
— Becky Pearson

As part of our Smart Lake Erie blog series, we’re highlighting each of the projects already in motion to help make Lake Erie the first Smart and Connected Great Lake.

We know Harmful Algal Blooms like those that caused the Toledo Drinking Water Crisis are out there. But how much real-time information can we get about these toxic, green blooms can we get when we need it the most?

The blue-green algal booms that plague Lake Erie in the summer can be seen from the sky.

The blue-green algal booms that plague Lake Erie in the summer can be seen from the sky.

At the Smart Lake Strategy Session in Sandusky in July, Becky Pearson, Director of Programming and Operations for Great Lakes Observing System (GLOS), presented on a new Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) Early Warning System that would help us get information about Lake Erie fast and efficiently.

Pearson explained that current HABs detection is isolated due to the lack of a real-time data collecting system that is capable of collecting different types of data, connecting that data to a network for processing, and sending notifications to individuals’ phones with relevant information about what the data indicates about Lake Erie water quality.

This is the gap that GLOS and its partners are hoping the HABs Early Warning System prototype can fulfill. 

“There is a clear objective for this and that’s to transmit and transform sensor data into information, get that into the hands of humans as fast as possible, and we’re looking at automating that flow of data as best as we can,” Pearson shared in her presentation. 

This project is part of a larger, collaborative 3-year GLOS project funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) called the Ocean Technology Transfer project

Buoy collecting data for harmful algal bloom monitoring and research in Western Lake Erie. Credit: NOAA.

Buoy collecting data for harmful algal bloom monitoring and research in Western Lake Erie. Credit: NOAA.

GLOS is partnering with Cleveland Water Alliance, LimnoTech, The Ohio State University, and NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory and National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science as it works to develop and implement this Early Warning System prototype.  

“With this prototype, we’re just hitting the tip of the iceberg of where GLOS wants to take Smart Great Lakes,” said Pearson. “This is just developing this smart backend at this point, but we would like to gather together a coalition of partners to make the great lakes smart.”

Learn more about GLOS and all the work it does on its website!

Rita Flanagan