Close this search box.


CLIMATE ACADEMY: Harmful Algal Blooms

Climate change will have a major impact on both aquatic ecosystems. Among these impacts is the potential for more harmful algal blooms (HABs). HABs occur when algae (plant-like organisms) grow out of control and produce toxins that are harmful to people, fish, birds, and other organisms in the local environment.

Join the following members of the NJ Department of Environmental Protection, Statewide HAB Expert Team, and Watershed Institute as they discuss the relationship between HABs in freshwater and climate change, as well as how municipalities and residents can work to address and manage these damaging events:

• Eugene Chebra, N.J.P.E., is Assistant Director of the NJ Department of Environmental Protection. Gene is responsible for administering and managing the New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Financing Program (N.J.E.I.F.P.) or Water Bank. In partnership with the New Jersey Infrastructure Bank, the N.J.E.I.F.P. awards low-cost financing to qualifying applicants for the construction of critical environmental infrastructure projects such as wastewater collection, conveyance, and treatment facilities; combined sewer overflow reduction, and stormwater and other nonpoint source pollution abatement projects; potable water conveyance and treatment facilities and lead service line replacement projects. To date, over $9 Billion has been awarded through this highly successful program, not only improving the environment of New Jersey but creating thousands of jobs as well.

• Gabriel Mahon, is currently a licensed professional engineer in both Pennsylvania and Delaware. He spent the first 12 years of his professional career working in the NJDEP Division of Land Use Regulation as an environmental engineer responsible for reviewing the engineering aspects of Land Use Regulation applications to ensure compliance with the Flood Hazard Area Control Act Rules, Coastal Zone Management Rules, Stormwater Management rules, and Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act Rules. He spent the next 4 years working in the NJDEP Division of Water Quality, where he eventually became the Bureau Chief of the Bureau of Nonpoint Pollution Control (BNPC). With the Department’s watershed based re-imagining, he now works as the Bureau Chief of the Bureau of NJPDES Stormwater Permitting and Water Quality Management in the newly created Division of Watershed Protection and Restoration, where he is responsible for managing the Water Quality Management Planning Program, the NJPDES Industrial Stormwater Permitting Program, the Municipal Stormwater Regulation Program, which includes the Stormwater Management rules (N.J.A.C. 7:8) and the NJPDES Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) Permitting Program.

Robert Newby, Ph.D. is a Research Microbiologist with the NJDEP’s Division of Science and Research. Rob joined NJDEP in 2017 and has worked on several critical environmental microbiology projects for the State. Rob’s primary research focus at NJDEP has been on characterizing and analyzing the dynamics and driving factors of freshwater cyanobacterial harmful algal blooms. Rob has served on many NJDEP led HAB expert panels, served as co-chair of the Management Practices section on the upcoming ITRC Harmful Cyanobacteria Bloom document, and serves as one of the state representatives to EPA RACT for HABs. Outside of HABs, Rob maintains an active research interest in several emerging microbial concerns, including SARS-CoV-2 environmental fate, Legionella spp. colonization and detection in drinking water and molecular technologies to help rapidly detect and profile endangered and invasive species.

Victor Poretti is the Section Chief for the NJDEP Bureau of Freshwater and Biological Monitoring, where he oversees the sampling and analysis of freshwater monitoring throughout the State. The Bureau provides data and information to serve as a sound scientific foundation for water resource management and meet federal Clean Water Act requirements. The Bureau also performs all aspects of NJ’s Cyanobacterial Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) freshwater response, including strategy development, sampling, and analysis, and communicating data and alerts to the public.

Stephen J. Souza, Ph.D., is the Owner of Clean Waters Consulting, LLC. He is also the Founding Partner of Princeton Hydro, LLC. From its inception in 1998 through 2018, he served as President of Princeton Hydro, retiring from the company in 2019. Over the past 35 years he has dedicated his career to the management and restoration of aquatic ecosystems, in particular lakes, ponds and reservoirs. Dr. Souza has served as an instructor and course coordinator for the Rutgers NJAES Office of Continuing Professional Education and for continuing studies at Monclair College. He is also an Adjunct Professor at Temple University. Dr. Souza is a past president of the North American Lake Management Society (NALMS) as well as the Pennsylvania Lake Management Society (PALMS) and he serves on the Board of Trustees of the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions.

Steven Tuorto, Ph.D., is Director of Science and Stewardship at The Watershed Institute based in Pennington, New Jersey. Steve works to promote stewardship of our natural resources through science, education, and advocacy, works closely in partnership with k-12 schools and universities, as well as local, state, and federal agencies to achieve goals; and is involved in the assessment of environmental health and planning and implementation of restoration work with a focus on stormwater and Green Infrastructure. Previously, he was senior R&D scientist at Terra Cycle.

Meet the Climate Corps

Angel Alguera, Rutgers Climate CorpsAngel Alguera
I am a first-year Atmospheric Science master’s degree student in the Department of Environmental Sciences, and my work focuses on meteorology and applications of climate change resiliency. My professional interests include severe weather forecasting and community preparedness regarding weather-related disasters. I work with Dr. James Shope at the NJ Climate Change Resource Center to produce applied research and reports relevant to New Jersey stakeholders. I currently assist with climate change data analysis, large dataset management, and report writing.

Daniel GilkesonDaniel Gilkeson
I’m a second-year master’s student in the City and Regional Planning Program with a concentration in environmental planning. As a planner, I hope to build more resilient communities in the face of increased risk due to climate change. With the Climate Change Resource Center, I am working on a project to aid the state in an update of its floodplain buyout program, known as Blue Acres, to be more proactive and comprehensive. Prior to this position, I interned in the Community and Economic Development Office at the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Association. I’m also an AmeriCorps alum, having completed a year of service working on affordable housing in Nashville, Tennessee.

Benjamin GoldbergBenjamin Goldberg
I am a second-year Master of City and Regional Planning student concentrating in climate adaptation and resiliency planning, with experience in sustainable food systems. I joined the Climate Corps last summer to help develop a GIS-based food waste recovery tool, and currently support community resilience through flood vulnerability analysis. I hold a B.A. from Middlebury College and a Certificate in Ecological Horticulture from UC Santa Cruz.

Surya Jacob, Rutgers Climate CorpsSurya Jacob
I am a graduate student in the Master of City and Regional Planning program at the Bloustein School concentrating in community development, focused on housing, land and finance, as well as pursuing the Real Estate Development/Redevelopment Certification. Prior to Bloustein, I worked as an architect and interior designer in India and Canada and am pivoting towards a career in urban planning to engage in extensive projects at the macro level. My interests include affordable and mixed income housing, urban redevelopment, and housing finance, and I am deeply passionate about climate resilience in community planning. Being part of Climate Corps is a foundational step towards helping to solve equity issues in vulnerable communities along the coastal region.

Vineesh Das Kodakkandathil, RutgersVineesh Das Kodakkandathil
I am an urban planner with five years of professional experience in community-led ecotourism development and land use and environment management planning in ecologically sensitive areas. I have worked on and conducted extensive environmental sensitivity analyses, flood and landslide vulnerability assessments, and human impact assessments with the help of GIS tools. I’m currently pursuing my master’s in City and Regional Planning at Bloustein School with a concentration in Transport Planning and GIS.

Douglas LeungDouglas Leung
I am working with the Climate Change Resource Center to identify vulnerable communities and places affected by climate-induced flooding in coastal New Jersey municipalities. I am a Master of City and Regional Planning candidate at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University. As a planner, I want to develop strategies and solve problems affecting our cities and communities that enable more equitable outcomes in housing and transportation. I am also a recent Army veteran, having served as a company commander of recruiting in the northern suburbs of Chicago and as a reconnaissance platoon leader in the 10th Mountain Division. For fun, I enjoy weightlifting, running, reading fiction, and board games.

Nihar MhatreNihar Mhatre
I am a master’s candidate in city and regional planning at Rutgers University’s Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, focusing on urban design and land use planning. Before being accepted at Rutgers, I worked as an architect at JD Studio and had my own architectural practice, Vastu Insights. My research interests revolve around designing and developing climate change adaptation and resilience strategies to promote equity in urban landscapes. Having the opportunity to work on real-world projects through Climate Corps will be an essential step in the development of my understanding of addressing climate change issues in vulnerable regions.

Justin MorrisJustin Morris
Justin is a master’s student at Rutgers University studying discovery informatics and data sciences. He is working under Professor Mark Rodgers to develop an optimization model that will act as a decision support tool for university financial investments with the end goal of eliminating Rutgers’ scope 2 emissions. He is excited to apply his background in data analytics and mathematical programming to help the university fight climate change.

Josephine O'GradyJosephine O’Grady
I am a first-year student in the Master of Public Policy program. Through the Coastal Climate Risk and Resilience (C2R2) certification, I am focusing a significant portion of my graduate coursework on topics including coastal geomorphology, environmental justice, and hazard mitigation planning. Before beginning my studies at the Bloustein School, I received my bachelor’s degree in public health from Kean University, where I first became interested in how coastal dynamics shape lived experiences. I previously served as an intern at the New Jersey State Policy Lab and currently work for the Megalopolitan Coastal Transformation Hub (MACH) team.

Jessica Parineet Jessica Parineet
I am a first-year Master of Public Policy student at the Bloustein School with a strong interest in climate change policy and related topics. In my previous work, I gained experience in a number of dimensions of climate change issues through carbon capture storage research, urban heat island research, and community level engagement as I am currently on the Student Advisory Board for the Rutgers Office of Climate Action. I am excited to expand on my interests in environmental justice and local level resilience planning through my involvement in the Climate Corps.

Dillon Patel Dillan Patel
I am a second-year Master of City and Regional Planning student concentrating in Environmental Planning and International Development. I have previously worked as an economist performing cost-benefit analysis and conducting monitoring and evaluation for renewable energy in developing countries. I have also spent a summer in western Massachusetts mapping stormwater infrastructure and working with planners to identify suitable places for green stormwater infrastructure.

Moira Sweeder, Rutgers Climate CorpsMoira Sweeder
I am a graduate student enrolled in the Master of City and Regional Planning program at the Bloustein School. My concentration is environmental planning with a focus on coastal resilience. Before pursuing my master’s degree at Rutgers, I studied sustainability at Stockton University. During this time, I interned for the PSEG Institute of Sustainability Studies, the Jacques Cousteau National Estuary Research Reserve, and NJ Audubon. I am thrilled to now be a part of the Climate Corps, researching coastal resilience as a part of the Megalopolitan Coastal Transformation Hub (MACH) team.

Thanks. Your submission was sent successfully.