"A Community in Crisis"
To receive the greatest benefit from the activity, students should be familiar with the role of algae in the food web, the general impacts of harmful algal blooms, and the ways that our societies are dealing with blooms. This can be accomplished by having the students participate in the preceding modules on this web site. Other valuable resources include Bigelow's "Toxic and Harmful Algal Blooms," NOAA's State of the Coast Report on Harmful Algal Blooms, the USDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, and Woods Hole's Harmful Algae Page.
Note to teachers: Click here to see the printable version of the introduction.
Students are presented with a scenario of a recent harmful algal bloom in the fictional town of Habport. They are assigned roles and are asked to prepare for and participate in a Habport town meeting called to discuss the bloom. Once provided with the scenario and roles, students should have several days to prepare for the meeting, as research will be required of them. Students should use the knowledge they have about harmful algal blooms to address possible causes and effects, as well as monitoring, prevention, and remediation efforts that might be taken. Some students will be given roles that they would not necessarily choose in real life. Encourage them to embrace their roles for the purpose of the exercise, and assure them that they will have the chance to voice their personal convictions after the fact. In addition to researching their individual roles, students should investigate actual recent harmful algal blooms, the impacts they have had, and the steps that were taken to deal with them. Encourage students to be creative! This should be a fun exercise that challenges their way of thinking and problem solving skills!
The town meeting can take
a variety of formats depending on the time available and the decisions
made by the students. At a minimum, each constituent should be allowed
time to speak. That time might be spent expressing specific concerns
over the algal bloom, suggesting causes, suggesting solutions, or anything
else the constituents would like to discuss. The goal of the meeting
is to hear all parties concerned and hopefully come up with some suggestions
for mitigation, as well as detection and
prevention of future blooms. The roles listed below are flexible. If
your class is large enough, assign groups of students to represent the
different roles. If your class is not large enough to assign all of
the roles and still have an audience of “concerned citizens,”
partner with another teacher and combine the classes for this multidisciplinary
exercise. At the conclusion of the exercise, allow time for the students
to discuss what occurred during their town meeting. This can be accomplished
as a group discussion, as a reflective paper, or as a journal exercise.
Questions they should consider addressing include: What did they learn
from the process? What did they learn about harmful algal blooms? What
did they learn of the impacts of harmful algal blooms? What did they
learn about dealing with HABs?
to teachers: Click here to see the printable
version of the scenario.
Harmful Algal Bloom Alert in Habport!
The local media has been reporting observations related to what appears to be a harmful algal bloom in your area. In order to assess the current situation and hopefully resolve the issue, a town meeting has been called. The goal of the meeting is to come up with some suggestions for mitigation of the bloom, as well as detection and prevention of future blooms. The flyer announcing the meeting is posted to the right.
All of you will be attending the meeting. Some of you are invited speakers who will serve on the discussion panel. Others of you will attend as concerned citizens who want to understand what is happening and be involved in the decision-making process in dealing with the bloom. All of you will have the chance for your voices to be heard. You have a week to prepare for the town meeting. Good luck!
about your town: Habport is located on a small peninsula on the gulf coast.
It is a semi-rural town with a year-round population of ~3000. During
the summer and fall (the prime tourism seasons), the population of Habport
has been known to approach 30,000. Local industries include tourism (hotels,
restaurants, entertainment), fishing, and to a lesser degree, farming.
All residents use city water (as opposed to wells). Most of the town on
is on a sewer system; however, some of the more rural homesteads utilize
As you can see from the Habport map, Habport Harbor houses most of the boat docks. The harbor was dredged last spring to allow improved boat passage. On the other side of town, the coast is dominated by sandy beaches, which provide an attractive landscape for the local hotels.
Details about the harmful algal bloom: As the local media has reported, there have been several sightings of dead fish washing up on the shores of Habport. One week ago, the local environmental quality officer was quoted as saying, “Our scientists are currently conducting assays on the dead fish.” Since then, a spokesperson from Habport Memorial was quoted as having said, “We have been receiving complaints of respiratory irritation from a few individuals. If you have respiratory problems, allergies, or asthma, we recommend avoiding the coastal areas.” Just this morning, a pelican was seen acting uncharacteristically on the beach. The animal is currently under the care of the environmental scientists and the local animal hospital. The most recent statement from the environmental quality office attributed the events to a bloom of Karenia brevis.
Note to teachers: Click here to see the printable version of the roles.
mayor needs to know: You are an elected official and you are running for
reelection this fall. If a solution is proposed that requires funding,
the town currently has $3000 available for discretionary use. Funding
allocations should address the prevention, detection, and remediation
of HABs. Both you and the town official must approve any allocation of
town official needs to know: Like the mayor, you are an elected official;
however, you were just elected last year and will not be up for reelection
until next year. The platform on which you were elected was supported
predominantly by the farming and the fishing industry. If a solution is
proposed that requires funding, the town currently has $3000 available
for discretionary use. Funding allocations should address the prevention,
detection, and remediation of HABs. Both you and the town official must
approve any allocation of funding.
(at least 1)
scientist needs to know: At some point in the meeting, you will be called
on by the town official to make an expert statement regarding the status
of the bloom, the impact it has had on the environment thus far, and the
impact you expect it have in the future. Remember that although you are
an “expert” on the topic, your job is not to dictate what
should be done but rather what the science tells us.
health official needs to know: You have seen several cases of respiratory
irritation at the hospital over the past few days. You have also treated
4 people for unexplained vomiting, diarrhea, and dizziness in the past
24 hours. Three of the four people had eaten clams at a local seafood
restaurant the evening before.
Owner (at least 1)
hotel/restaurant owner needs to know: Several guests have recently complained
about dead fish washing up on the beach by the hotel swimming area. One
of your lifeguards visited the emergency room the other day because she
was having trouble breathing after her shift. You had to call the police
this morning to escort a man off of your property. He entered your lobby
yelling that the world was ending and that the dead fish were just the
beginning. You were notified by the hospital that some people had gotten
sick after eating clams at your restaurant the other night. You have since
taken them off of the menu and notified your provider.
Industry (at least 1)
fishing industry needs to know: You have noticed that the water has seemed
murkier in some areas lately; in some places it almost looks red. You
have also seen dead fish in the waters – not very appealing to those
tourists on your day trips. You were just told by one of your restaurant
customers that they will no longer be purchasing any of your shellfish
until you can provide proof that they are not “bad.”
Country Club Owner
golf course owner needs to know: Over the past 3 days, you have received
several phone calls from people asking about the safety of the local waters
and questioning whether they should come to the Habport Open scheduled
in 2 weeks. One foursome has already cancelled their reservation.
of Wastewater Treatment Plant
manager needs to know: The state office of environmental quality inspects
your plant every 3 years. You have passed every inspection with flying
colors since you have been manager. During your last inspection, you discussed
the increasing population of Habport and the possible need for a facility
that has a greater capacity.
farmer needs to know: You have been farming your land organically for
the past 10 years. You only recently acquired your dairy cows (3 years
Citizens (remainder of class or another class)
Things the citizens need to know: What you know of the algal bloom is what you have read in the newspapers and seen on the news. Some of you may have noticed signs of the bloom around town. You have several interests which include, but are not restricted to: (1) the health of your families, (2) the stability of your income, (3) the local environment, and (4) the economic survival of your town.