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HABs in the Land of Ahhhhhs

Posted by Stephanie A. Smith, Ph.D. on Mon, Aug 26, 2013 @ 07:00 AM

Ruby SlippersAhhhhhs….Oz….get it?    Well, they get it in Kansas, where the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) does a really excellent job of posting advisories so that the public will know which lakes are affected by harmful algal blooms (HABs).  Manhattan, Kansas was thus a fitting setting this past June for a gathering of HAB researchers led by Dr. Wilson Rumbeiha of Iowa State, and hosted by Kansas State University’s Dr. Deon van der Merwe. Deon works closely with KDHE to educate the public regarding HABs, and showed some of the most startling data I have ever seen, regarding the intensity of previous HABs in Kansas.  The KDHE guide for veterinarians is another impressive resource that has been developed, in response to an issue I blogged about previously, livestock and pet deaths.   I was reminded of this again just this past week, reading about a dog death in Clear Lake, CA.

So with all the impacts that HABs are having on the environment, animal and human health, it would seem that Dr. Rumbeiha’s CyHABs consortium would be a welcome effort to tackle HAB issues, especially because the consortium has particular strength in veterinary medicine and pathology.  Rumbeiha’s home institution, Iowa State, recognized this and provided seed funds to help him form the consortium, its mission, and a platform for seeking federal funding.

Just like a small business, though, the consortium is in “the valley,” trying to transition off of seed funding onto more sustainable funding to support its long-term objectives.  Dr. Rumbeiha and another consortium leader, Dr. Elizabeth Whitely, learned on a trip to Washington that a barrier to obtaining funding is that many of the folks holding the purse strings at the NSF, NIH, USDA, and elsewhere, have very limited awareness of HABs and their impacts.  As such, the stakeholders at these institutions are not motivated to solicit Congress to fund that issue; they are going to seek funds for what they know more about.

So the funding problem, and thereby the HAB problem, get addressed when Congress becomes aware, either through federal agency leaders or through us, the voters.  Beagle Bioproducts’ Jim Cook explained that Lake Improvement Associations have this power, and indeed LIAs are a great place to start if you want to become involved.  Contact your state and federal representatives…start your own blog!  Find out what’s going on in your own state, because just like Dorothy said…there’s no place like home.

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