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The Algal Bloom Pilot Project

The project
   Algal bloom on Windermere (Photo: Melanie Fletcher)
   Anabaena sp. (Photo: Hilda Canter-Lund)

The FBA is currently undertaking a pilot project  involving volunteers in the monitoring of algal blooms in the Lake District. Funded by the Environment Agency (EA), and in collaboration with Cumbria Wildlife Trust (CWT), the University of Stirling (UoS) and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH), the project aims to monitor the extent and frequency of blooms on three lakes in Cumbria (Windermere, Bassenthwaite and Derwent Water).

The pilot will test the feasibility of a cost effective algal bloom monitoring programme based on cross-validating three sources of information: visual assessment and sampling involving volunteers;  remote sensed data processed by the UoS;  environmental and historical data from the EA , CEH and others.

Algal blooms, particularly those of blue green algae or cyanobacteria, are probably the most widely recognised ecological response of lakes to the addition of nutrients, such as nitrates and phosphates, as a result of human activities. This process, known as eutrophication, is occurring in lakes worldwide and is of interest to all of us because blooms can result in a lack of oxygen in the water, which can be harmful to aquatic life, as well as sometimes being poisonous. Information on the occurrence of blooms and their frequency is important to the public, water managers and policy makers as well as being required as part of the Water Framework Directive (WFD).

Dr Mike Dobson, Director of the FBA said “Algal blooms are a symptom of other problems in the environment. This project is a wonderful way of involving local communities in valuable research and monitoring that will enable us to seek long-lasting solutions.”

If you are interested in finding out more, please contact the Project Officer, Dr Melanie Fletcher (, 015394 42468, The Freshwater Biological Association, The Ferry Landing, Far Sawrey, Ambleside, LA22 0LP).

Update May 2013

We have had a fantastic response from volunteers on this project! Almost 80 volunteers were out surveying this season, and they have completed 170 separate lake surveys for algal blooms.

The field season for this project finished at the end of October 2012. A final report has been completed, and will be available for download soon from this website. We are currently awaiting news of funding to continue this project and will put a notice here as soon as we find out.

Some previous events

  • Tuesday 15th January for 3 weeks - Exhibition of beautiful algal images by Dr Hilda Canter-Lund (renowned algologist and FBA scientist) and winners of the British Phycological Society photographic competition, Ambleside Library (then moving to Windermere library)
  • Wednesday 23rd January - Pre-lunch seminar by Dr Bill Brierley (Environment Agency) on algal bloom monitoring initiatives from around the world, 12.00pm, FBA, Windermere
  • Monday 28th January - Windermere Reflections Talk Programme. Helen Miller (University of Southampton) will be discussing 'What was here and how have things changed? - ice age till now from lakebed sediments', followed by Dr Melanie Fletcher (FBA) discussing 'Volunteer involvement in algal bloom monitoring', 6.30pm, Esquires coffee shop (upstairs room), Market Cross, Ambleside
  • Saturday 2nd February - Review of project results and feedback session, 10.00am – 12.00pm, Thornthwaite cum Braithwaite Victory Memorial Hall near Keswick
  • Saturday 2nd February - Review of project results and feedback session, 3.00pm – 5.00pm, FBA, Windermere


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