Viral Treatment for Harmful Algal Blooms: A Preliminary Inquiry

Project ID: 19157
Principal Investigator: Christopher Waechter
Research Topic: Water Quality
Funded Fiscal Years: 2019
Keywords: None

Research Question

This project will investigate the research that has been done on VLPs that infect algae and cyanobacteria that cause HABs. A literature review will be done to assess the current state of research, and identify the areas in which more research is needed to facilitate the development of VLP based treatments for HABs. A case study will also be done to determine the extent and context of the HABs that are occurring. The literature review and the case study will then be combined to assess if virus based HAB mitigation activities are promising enough for further Reclamation research. Further partners will also be identified for future research collaboration both within and external to the federal government.
The goal of this activity is to determine the state of current research into algal/cyanobacterial viruses and their applicability to HAB control and better understand the challenges faced by reservoir managers with respect to HAB control. By combining these two inquiries, we hope to identify gaps in the information we have on algal viruses to guide future research, as well as better understand how effective viral HAB control could be in a real world context. We are optimistic that we will be able to identify some topic areas that need future research and demonstrate that this treatment technique is promising enough to warrant development of a treatment specific to a single location. The long term goal of this inquiry is to spur on future Reclamation research into developing virus based HAB treatments, and demonstrate to possible future industry partners the viability of this technology.

Need and Benefit

This project will help provide information on the state of research related to the application of phages to treat HABs.
This information would help inform decision makers for Reclamation owned reservoirs to make decisions about the
validity and applicability of phage based treatments. It will benefit all regions of Reclamation, because HABs are a
problem in reservoirs in every region that Reclamation services. It will also provide a scientific basis for Reclamation to
evaluate future research efforts in this field, empowering Reclamation to accurately evaluate research proposals for
feasibility and applicability to Reclamation needs and priorities. No research has been done by Reclamation in this
field, so it will help form an initial aggregation of research in the field from which future Reclamation research can be
based upon.
This project will provide an overview of research in the field of algal viruses, as well as a case study of a HAB
impacted body of water to help determine how likely an algal virus based treatment for HABs is to succeed. It will at
the least determine what further information is needed to properly evaluate the feasibility of the algal virus treatment
approach. If a area of research is identified as a need, this work will save time in preparing a conducting proposal for
said research, while also improving the quality of a potential future proposal. It will reduce the time and labor cost for a
reservoir/dam manager to investigate this technology if they are faced with the possibility of using this technology in
the future. It will also provide a curated, aggregated source of data for Reclamation decision makers to make future
decisions on the evaluation of research in this field in the future.
If this project is not funded, any future work in this field by Reclamation would require the interested parties to send
dozens of hours researching and curating the research that has been done in the field of algal viruses and algal virus
treatment of HABs. There is also the potential for the investigator doing their own investigation to miss important work
that has been done, and end up making decisions based on incomplete data. There is currently no work that has
been done by Reclamation of this type, so without this work there would not be a single reference point for algal virus
information for Reclamation employees. Considering that Reclamation does not currently have bureau-wide access to
Elsevier or other collections of academic journals, it would be a large output of labor to obtain all the individual papers
from library, or a large expenditure to purchase access to each piece of literature.

Contributing Partners

Contact the Principal Investigator for information about partners.

Research Products

Bureau of Reclamation Review

The following documents were reviewed by experts in fields relating to this project's study and findings. The results were determined to be achieved using valid means.

Viral Treatment of Harmful Algal Blooms (final, PDF, 843KB)
By Christopher Waechter
R&D Bulletin completed on September 30, 2019

This research product summarizes the research results and potential application to Reclamation's mission.

Viral Treatment for Harmful Algal Blooms: A Preliminary Inquiry (final, PDF, 1.1MB)
By Chris Waechter
Research Product completed on September 30, 2019

This research product summarizes the research results and potential application to Reclamation's mission.

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Last Updated: 6/22/20