Toxic algae – sometimes called harmful algal blooms – is a particular threat in the warm summer months, when polluted runoff from farms, feedlots, lawns and septic fields meets warm waters that allow dangerous algae growth to explode. For the second year in a row, the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Nutrient Pollution team is hosting a series of webinars aimed at raising awareness of toxic algae outbreaks: their causes, impacts and solutions. Resource Media’s Cat Lazaroff participated in one of these webinars, sharing lessons learned from our own toxic algae work to help agencies, academics and NGOs communicate this complicated issue. From reporters to decision makers, boaters to fishermen, a wide variety of audiences might want to understand the risks posed by toxic algae – but why? As with all communications, figuring out what your audience cares about tells you where to start the conversation. Cat offered tips on focusing messaging at specific audiences, sharing compelling stories and images, and breaking down wonky language into simple terms that speak to audience concerns.
A total of 388 people attended the webinar, asking questions about responding to push-back from hostile audiences, creating maps and other visuals to share data and information, and finding stories to help communicate the impacts of toxic algae. You can listen to the full recording of the 90-minute webinar here. And check out other great information on our website, toxicalgaenews.com, where you can download an infographic that paints a simple picture of where toxic algae comes from, and what you can do about it.
Congress recently acknowledged the problem by amending the Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia Research and Control Act of 1998. This week, President Obama signed the bill into law, authorizing up to $82 million in new research to help address toxic contamination and invasive species. The bill also requires the formation of a Task Force to establish a national program, develop and publish a national action strategy, address needed research, and promote technologies for predicting, monitoring, and mitigating harmful algal blooms.
As the conditions that feed toxic algae peak this summer, Resource Media will be publicizing outbreaks and helping local media to tell the story. Follow along via @toxicalgaenews!
–Cat Lazaroff & Aileo Weinmann
Photo credit: Tom Archer