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Using Flow Cytometry to Quantify Harmful Algal Blooms: Why are there times when some HABs not “Harmful”?

Algal blooms are a naturally occurring event in response to dynamic shifts in an aquatic environment; however unnatural elevated nutrient inputs into a watershed can result in excessive and more frequent algal blooms. Harmful algal blooms (HABs) create a human health concern due to the release of toxins that can affect those that recreate or come in contact with those waters. The objective of this study was to examine the relationship between cyanobacteria cell counts and cyanotoxin concentrations; and to examine the relationship of these factors with other environmental parameters. Water samples from Lake Erie at Presque Isle State Park Beaches, Presque Isle Bay, and along the Pennsylvania coastline of Lake Erie were collected and analyzed for a relationship between cyanobacteria cell counts (cells/mL) and cyanotoxin concentration (ppb). Additional data was collected on biotic and abiotic parameters associated with samples. Relationships between parameters in relation to cyanobacteria cell counts and cyanotoxin concentrations were identified. This study has identified specific parameters that were statistically significant and would be used in a modeling equation. In addition, specific sampling sites were identified with more than one significant parameter. These sites would be optimal locations for the development of a model to predict the occurrence of harmful algal bloom events.

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