Penn State Extension Completes Project to Help Pond Owners Identify Harmful Algae

Posted: March 28, 2016

Pennsylvania contains thousands of natural and man-made ponds and small lakes that are commonly used for irrigation, livestock or recreational purposes. Surveys of pond and lake owners by Penn State Extension have found that 52% complained of nuisance levels of aquatic plants or algae.
Lake algae. Photo: Bryan Swistock

Lake algae. Photo: Bryan Swistock

While most forms of pond and lake algae are harmless, certain types of blue-green algae (technically cyanobacteria) can produce toxins that can cause injury or death to livestock, pets, fish, wildlife or humans who interact with the water. As a result, these harmful algae blooms or “HAB’s” can interfere with the common agricultural and recreational uses of ponds during summer months. 

Penn State Extension received funding from the Pennsylvania Water Resources Research Center to educate pond and lake owners about HAB’s and to help identify algae samples for pond owners. Trained Extension educators conducted workshops, webinars and conferences during 2015 and they accepted algae samples for identification from the public. Ninety-two (92) samples were submitted to project staff and 18% of these samples were found to contain at least one potentially harmful algae species. The most commonly observed algae capable of producing toxins were Aphanizomenon, Microcystis, and Anabaena. Many of these samples were submitted during one of the 20 workshops or events presented across the state by the Penn State Extension team. Over 1,200 pond owners or managers attended one of these events representing nearly 6,000 acres of inland waterbodies. Follow-up surveys of attendees at workshops found that 73% had taken action to better manage their pond as a result of attending the workshops.
Pond and lake owners who want to learn more about harmful algae blooms can view a recorded webinar by Penn State Extension and download a two-page fact sheet by Pennsylvania SeaGrant at: