Blue-green algae symposium discusses how to fight billion-year-old organism

Reporter: Elizabeth Biro Writer: Rachel Murphy
Published: Updated:

Blue-green algae isn’t just in Southwest Florida: it’s a global problem, and scientists gathered to discuss how to combat one of the oldest organisms.

In Cyanobacteria’s (or as we know it, blue-green algae) 1.9 billion years on earth, it’s developed a variety of adaptations, abilities and characteristics that allow it to thrive.

“Right now, on our HAB advisory page on our website, we show they’re more than 350 HAB-related recreational advisories across the US. And we know that this is an underestimate,” said Deborah Nagle, director of the EPA Office of Science, Technology and Water.

Nagle spoke at the agency’s blue-green algae symposium. She said the harmful algae blooms are a growing problem.

“This year, the Center for Disease Control CDC issued their 2021 H.A.B. illness report, noting that there are 16 states reported a total of 117 human illnesses,” said Nagle.

Over 2,700 animal illnesses were also reported.

“Everything from gastroenteritis to full-blown toxicity where it can harm a human being kidney functions, liver functions, neurotoxins, skin toxins,” Doctor Barry Rosen described. Rosen is a professor at the Water School of Florida Gulf Coast University.

Rosen said that organisms can fix their own nitrogen, essentially creating its own food to feed itself.

There are three days left in the EPA’s virtual cyanosymposium. It’s open to the public. If you’re interested in registering, click here.

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