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Above: Examples of harmful blooms in our region.

What are cyanobacteria? Cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, are a type of single-celled organism found naturally in all water bodies. Though they are able to use sunlight to make their own food, cyanobacteria also need nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus in order to grow. In warm, nutrient-rich water, cyanobacteria can reproduce quickly and spread across the water’s surface, forming blooms. Whether a bloom is harmful to humans and animals depends on the type of cyanobacteria present. Some cyanobacteria can produce cyanotoxins, a powerful poison. They can also block the sunlight from the rest of the ecosystem and consume all the oxygen that other organisms in the water need to survive. Blooms are most common in the late summer and in places where fertilizers, septic tank overflows and animal manure introduce high levels of nutrients into the water.

How can I help? The Stormwater Innovation Center participates in the Cyanobacteria Monitoring Collaborative by teaching community volunteers how to collect and report cyanobacteria data to state and federal agencies using bloomWatch, cyanoScope and fluorometer analysis.

Think you see a bloom? bloomWatch is a smartphone app that makes reporting your sighting easy. Just download the app and start taking pictures! bloomWatch teaches you what to look for and how to take good photos of blooms.


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.  Data available in the DATA TAB


Our team regularly monitors water quality and potential cyanobacteria blooms across Rhode Island to analyze them for chlorophyll and phycocyanin concentrations.  These valuable data points are useful as indicators of algae and cyanobacteria that is present in aquatic systems. 

If you would like to be involved as a local community scientist, please contact Roy Arezzo at

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