HAB is an acronym for Harmful Algae Bloom. Most algae are not harmful, as they form the base of the food chain in aquatic systems. A bloom is considered harmful if it causes detrimental effects to other living creatures. A small proportion of algae produce toxins, while others just grow to such extent that they can disrupt or smother other organisms.
In response to growing concern about Harmful Algae Blooms, the University of Delaware Sea Grant Program established an HAB Monitoring Program. This program complements the Inland Bays Citizen Monitoring Program and Broadkill River Monitoring Program. Volunteers are trained to identify and count commonly occurring phytoplankton, in particular those associated with harmful algae blooms.
When large blooms of HAB species occur, immediate alerts are provided to the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.
Water quality reports – which include up to date summaries of water quality data – are provided on a semi-monthly basis through summer months.
Learning to identify a myriad of microscopic algae under a light microscope can be challenging, but for those volunteers who have invested the time, the experience has opened up a whole new world.