Some Background on cyanoScope

Cyanobacteria are important members of the phytoplankton assemblages in lakes. In most situations these photosynthetic bacteria pose little risk to human health or the environmental integrity of lakes. However, when nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations are elevated and water temperatures warm, cyanobacteria can rapidly form dense and sometimes extensive blooms. Many species of cyanobacteria produce toxins that can cause symptoms in humans and other animals ranging from mild skin irritations and gastritis to debilitating illnesses and death. Given the current escalation in waterbody eutrophication and increases in temperatures due to global climate change, the frequency of cyanobacteria blooms is increasing. The public is beginning to become aware of these blooms through media accounts of lake closures, toxin exposures, and threats to drinking water intakes (e.g. cyanotoxins from Lake Erie in Toledo’s drinking water supply in 2014). In addition to health concerns, blooms also affect humans through reductions in lake ecosystem services. Despite this growing concern, there are considerable gaps in ecological understanding about this group of organisms. cyanoScope uses available tools and technology for citizen scientists to effectively monitor harmful algal blooms at local, regional, and national scales. After training and obtaining a digital microscope kit (specifications provided on our website), citizen scientists collect water samples from local lakes or ponds and then take microscope photos of the cyanobacteria present in the samples. These photos are then shared on the cyanoScope project of iNaturalist ( The iNaturalist site allows participants to interact with the cyanoScope community and also to have experts assist with species identification. The main scientific goal of this project is to develop a national library of identified cyanobacteria photographs that can be used for spatial distribution and occurrence modeling. The success of this project is contingent upon the development and dispersal of effective communication and training materials. This first stage of cyanoScope is devoted to solidifying an audience that will ensure the project’s success.

Posted on February 04, 2016 07:22 PM by bkreakie bkreakie


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