Phytoplankton and zooplankton form a crucial role in the Ohio River food web. However, during certain conditions, some algae may rapidly proliferate causing a “bloom”.
Blooms of blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, can produce toxins (cyanotoxins). Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) can present health risks to humans and animals who recreate in them or who ingest contaminated drinking water.
FORE is collaborating with Northern Kentucky University (NKU) to test a camera application developed by NKU to detect potential Harmful Algal Blooms. FORE hosts a camera at Queen City Riverboats, and performs algal counts on water samples to “ground truth” what the camera sees. Similar cameras are also located at the Thomas More Biology Field Station and Harsha Lake.
Students participating in FORE’s River REACH program also collect and study river samples to classify the different types of algae and zooplankton that make up the Ohio River ecosystem.