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Harmful algal blooms in the James

A major new study of the James River has been launched to investigate harmful algal blooms and their effects on water quality, living resources and human health. The six-year, $3 million project will document the occurrence of algal blooms in the tidal waters of the James.

VCU and Rice Center researcher Dr. Paul Bukaveckas has been tapped by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to lead the Science Advisory Panel in developing a research strategy and interpreting the findings. The project team includes faculty from VCU, ODU and VIMS; a companion modeling project includes experts from throughout the region.  The project addresses a number of basic research elements that seek to identify causes of algal blooms as well as their harmful effects. 

The important applied aspects of the project are in evaluating the existing water quality standards for the tidal James and developing a predictive model that can forecast improvements in water quality arising from anticipated nutrient load reductions. Dr. Bukaveckas commented that this project has provided an opportunity to integrate previously disparate research and monitoring efforts on the James and to bring together university researchers with scientists at regulatory agencies and diverse other stakeholders who have an interest in the health of the James. An upcoming meeting of the DEQ’s James River Stakeholder Advisory Group will be held at the Rice Center.