Are cyanobacteria monitored on Martha’s Vineyard?
Currently, water samples must be sent to laboratories off-Island for cyanobacteria analysis. Great Pond Foundation, along with collaborators at the Martha’s Vineyard Commission and the MV Shellfish Group are pursuing the equipment needed to start a robust cyanobacteria monitoring program for Island ponds. With a monitoring program in place, blooms can be quickly detected and the appropriate safety measures, such as pond closures, can be enacted by local Boards of Health.
When there is visual evidence of a bloom, the first step is to identify the species causing the bloom. This can be done by observing a water sample under a microscope. When the species is known, it narrows down which toxins to test for, as different toxins are often associated with different species. The next step is to quantify how much of the toxin is present and if it is at a level high enough to pose a risk to humans and other animals. If high levels of a toxin are found, the local Board of Health will be notified and pond closures and swimming advisories will be posted.
With regular cyanobacterial monitoring, it is possible to detect early warning signs that a bloom may be coming. Regular and timely communication and coordination between Island pond biologists, who monitor ponds, and local Boards of Health, who advise the public about health and safety, will be vitally important.