What is cyanobacteria? Cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, are micro organisms found naturally in all water bodies.  They are a single-celled organism that uses sunlight to make their own food. In warm water that has high levels of phosphorous and nitrogen, cyanobacteria can reproduce quickly and spread on the water surface.  Common sources of high levels of nutrients (phosphorous and nitrogen) are fertilizers, septic tank overflows and animal manure.  These blooms can form at any time, but often occur in the late summer when water temperatures are warmer.  A cyanobacteria bloom can last for days, weeks or months.  Some cyanobacteria blooms can be harmful to humans and animals.  Harmful cyanobacteria create a cyanotoxin that is a powerful poison.  Harmful cyanobacteria  can also block the sunlight and consume the oxygen needed by other organisms to live in the water.

The Providence Stormwater Innovation Center is participating in the  Cyanobacteria Monitoring Collaborative by recruiting community volunteers, organizing an EPA led training on using the BloomWatch app and Cyanoscope kits, and overseeing volunteer data collection.

The amount of time, equipment, and training needed to participate varies for each project. The simplest reporting tool to use is bloomWatch, a smartphone app that enables participants to help track cyanobacteria blooms by taking and submitting photos. All you need to do is download the app and and start taking pictures! bloomWatch teaches you what to look for, provides on-screen instructions on how to take good photos of blooms, and prompts you to answer some questions about the sighting. 

The cyanoScope project helps scientists and water resource managers learn more about where and when blooms occur and what types of cyanobacteria are present across the region. With the appropriate gear and training, cyanoScope participants collect water samples of possible blooms, view the samples under a microscope, take photos of cyanobacteria, and upload the photos and sighting details to the cyanoScope project on The cyanoScope community then helps to identify the cyanobacteria present.

If you would like to be involved as a local participatory scientist, please contact Ryan Kopp at