Understanding Harmful Algal Blooms-Temporal and Spatial Characterization of Microbial Communities from Lake Okeechobee

Principal Investigator/Project Director

Jose Lopez

Colleges / Centers

Halmos College of Arts and Sciences


U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Start Date



As part of the South Florida and Caribbean Cooperative Ecosystems Studies Unit (SFC CESU), our team proposes an intensive, collaborative scientific study to characterize the microbial communities and environmental parameters that can lead to massive cyanobacterial blooms related to the Lake Okeechobee (LO) watershed. This proposal addresses all of the primary requests and goals posed in the USACE W912HZ-19-SOI-0022 RFP. Inland harmful algal blooms (HAB) have negative environmental and human health impacts. Our overarching objective is to understand bloom drivers and life cycle patterns by characterizing the microbial and chemical environments prior to onset of a bloom(s), and throughout its successional stages. The proposed research will apply an integrative approach to: (1) assess biodiversity and phylogeny of cyanobacteria and associated microorganisms (i.e. cyanobacteria-microbiota) in various phases of bloom events centered in the LO watershed, (2) investigate the genetic basis and functional roles of cyanobacteria-microbiota diversity along a spatiotemporal gradient, and (3) investigate environmental and anthropogenic effects on cyanobacteria-microbiota diversity. The following hypotheses will be tested: 1) HAB occur because of exploitation competition among cyanobacterial communities and due to the right combination of abiotic and biotic factors; 2) Significant differences in microbial composition occur across geographic sites, environmental gradients; 3) Changes in gene expression patterns found in cyanobacterial communities will provide the data to enable the prediction of succession of HAB and toxin production and, 4) Heterotrophic microorganisms are important components of bloom induction and termination through the interactions with algae. These goals will be accomplished by assembling a multidisciplinary team of scientists from the US Geological Survey (USGS), South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), academia (Nova Southeastern University CESU, Florida Gulf Coast University), and biotechnological industry (CosmosID).

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