Expansion of Proactive Monitoring Capacity for Harmful Algal Blooms

Principal Investigator

Harmful algal blooms (HAB) are a threat to ecosystems, humans, and the economy of Texas’ coastal communities. Currently, routine proactive HAB monitoring is limited to two locations on the 367 miles of coastline in Texas, emphasizing the likelihood that HABs not in the immediate vicinity of these sensors will be missed.

One of the important lessons from previous HAB events in Texas and elsewhere is that proactive, sustained HAB monitoring efforts are sorely needed to provide early warning of a HAB to coastal communities. This, in turn, will reduce: 1) economic loss to tourism and seafood-reliant industries, 2) adverse human health impacts, and 3) negative publicity associated with HABs.

In addition, data obtained from a monitoring network can lead to improved understanding of the environmental drivers of HABs, increasing the likelihood of their prevention by reshaping the environment to no longer be conducive. For example, this information can inform policies and practices pertaining to land use and pollutant loadings, directly supporting agency-led efforts to facilitate sustainable growth on the Texas coast.

The goal of this project is to implement a routine HAB monitoring program in Port Bay and southern Copano Bay, which is home to important habitats such as seagrass and oyster reefs and is the location of Texas’ first oyster farm. Specific objectives are to: 1) establish a biweekly field sampling program, and 2) conduct stakeholder engagement to identify future “citizen scientists” for future expansion of HAB monitoring in the area.