The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has awarded the New Jersey Center for Water Science and Technology at Montclair State University a $353,000 grant to expand its research of the harmful algal blooms that have plagued the state’s freshwater bodies in recent summers.
The funding is part of $3.5 million in grants issued by the Department (NJDEP) for projects designed to reduce the impacts of nonpoint source pollution – such as land runoff, precipitation, and drainage – on waterways, including plans to mitigate harmful algal blooms.
Led by Meiyin Wu, biology professor and center director, the study will focus on the areas of the Musconetcong River with a high influx of non-point source pollutants. The goal is to identify remaining contaminant sources and tailor future best management practices accordingly, which is the first step in eventually de-listing this section of the river from the NJDEP’s list of impaired waters.
“The Increasing frequency and severity of harmful algal blooms are among the consequences predicted to arise from climate change and pollution; continued funding and facilitation of research will be an essential component of any effective management plan,” says Wu. “Harmful algal blooms can have detrimental effects on human and animal health, various economic sectors, and the well-being of local communities.”
The funding will enable prevention and/or mitigation of these potentially devastating outcomes, Wu says, “especially given the fact that we predict they will only become more prevalent in coming years.”
Through the center, the University leads the management of New Jersey’s lakes, rivers, reservoirs and other water bodies by providing research, testing, technical assistance and sponsorship of K-12 and general public education. The center houses the University’s Passaic River Institute, New Jersey Phytoplankton Lab, Habitat Connectivity Project, and an NJDEP-certified Water Analysis Laboratory.
Montclair State is a long-standing partner of the NJDEP, and has served as a resource for researching, testing and identifying harmful algal blooms in New Jersey since the summer of 2015.
“Harmful algal blooms need to be looked at from every angle: they’re complex natural phenomena, and to really assess them requires collaboration between ecologists, public health professionals, microbiologists, chemists, biochemists, mathematicians, engineers, and specialists from a slew of other fields,” says Wu. “For this reason, it’s absolutely essential that we give students the chance to experience and participate in this research. We need young, budding scientists to see that this field of research is going to be really crucial as the global climate continues to change, and that the scientists engaged in it aren’t restricted to any one narrow field of expertise.”
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