Halfman on Blue-Green Algae on WENY – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Halfman on Blue-Green Algae on WENY

Professor of Geoscience and Environmental Studies John Halfman was interviewed this month by the regional news station WENY about the blooms of potentially bacteria that have been spotted in the Finger Lakes region.

As Halfman told WENY in the Aug. 26 article, “Toxic Blue-Green Algae Found In Finger Lakes,” blue-green algae is actually a misnomer: “They aren’t really an algae. They are more of a bacteria but they have a pigment that they can photosynthesize just like algae.”

Many of Halfman’s current research projects explore water quality and nutrient loading in the Finger Lakes region, which affects the presence and concentration of the algae in the lakes.

Having joined the HWS faculty in 1994, Halfman teaches in the Department of Geoscience and Environmental Studies Program. He is one of the founders and developers of the Finger Lakes Institute at the Colleges. Building on Lake Superior and the East African Rift Lake research before coming to HWS, his current research interests focus on the Finger Lakes and include the collection of limnological and hydrogeochemical data to investigate records of environmental change. Current projects include the hydrogeochemical impact of zebra mussels on these lakes, the source and fate of non-point source pollutants within these watersheds, and water quality variability between watersheds. He also investigates the high-resolution records of climate change that is preserved in the Holocene sediments of the Finger Lakes.

The full article is reprinted below.

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Toxic Blue-Green Algae Found In Finger Lakes

GENEVA, NY (WENY) –  We go for a swim in it, we lay in the sun by it and we let our animals play around it. The Finger Lakes are a popular spot during the summer but Blue-Green algae could be taking away some fun in the sun.

“They aren’t really an algae. They are more of a bacteria but they have a pigment that they can photosynthesize just like algae.”

Geoscience and Environmental Studies  Professor John Halfman at Hobart and William Smith Colleges says the bacteria can live in stressful environments. And most of the finger lakes, like Cayuga and Seneca are seeing a bloom.

“The concern with Blue-Green Algae in some strains of some species can be toxic. So, you don’t want to drink a lot of the water but the volume of water you need to drink to get the effects of it can be a lot.”

Just last year, Toledo, Ohio’s water was contaminated because of an increase of the bacteria. So, if you feel symptoms such as vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, skin, eye or throat irritation, allergic reactions or breathing difficulties after drinking lake water, seek medical attention.

While the toxic bacteria is no stranger to Seneca Lake or any of the other lakes, Blue-Green Algae becomes more prevalent each year as more nutrients go into the water.

“It feeds more and more algae so the lakes get more and more turbid.” Professor Halfman says during the day the algae tends to float to the top and pushed around by winds and waves.

“They tend to pile up in wind shore locations and that’s where you can find a concentration high enough to be problematic.”

To learn more about Blue Green algae, click on the link below:

http://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/77118.html