Algae Monitoring Program

Algae Monitoring Program Logo

Muskoka Watershed Council developed the Algae Monitoring Program to collect information on the distribution, abundance and seasonal cycles of a) all phytoplankton combined, and b) blue-green algae in particular, across Muskoka area lakes so that, over time, it may be possible to identify conditions favoring algae, detect trends in phytoplankton abundance, and provide management advice.

Modelled from a Cyanobacteria Monitoring Collaborative program carried out in New England, MWC’s Algae Monitoring Program harnesses the efforts of dedicated citizen scientists who currently monitor water quality across Muskoka in order to build a richer database of information on local algal populations.


A pilot project was undertaken in 2019 and 2021 in collaboration with five selected lake associations. Following the completion of the pilot project, the Algae Monitoring Program was opened to a limited number of additional lake associations in 2022, with 12 associations participating. A couple of new associations are added each year.

The objectives of the program are to:

  • Expand phytoplankton monitoring to interested lake associations across Muskoka as an addition to their existing water quality efforts;
  • Collaborate with select lake associations on additional algal sampling to address specific issues of prevalence and/or causation of algal nuisance blooms;
  • Develop information materials and presentations on algae for delivery to lake associations and others;
  • Communicate these efforts to other lake associations across Muskoka; and
  • Evaluate the program in 2026 and decide whether to continue beyond that date.

Participating Lake Associations

Is your lake association interested in participating in the MWC Algae Monitoring Program? Review the sections below regarding program costs and requirements and email [email protected] to register.

Program Requirements

Lake associations wishing to participate in the Algae Monitoring Program must ensure that they have volunteers available and willing to carry out the sampling requirements throughout the entire length of the season.

Sampling occurs on a bi-weekly (14 day) schedule beginning in May and continuing to mid-October. On each sampling week, samples are to be collected from all sites on the lake between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm within the same three day period (i.e. Mon-Tues-Wed, Fri-Sat-Sun, etc).

An offshore and nearshore site will be selected for each lake and will be sampled on each sampling occasion. The offshore site should be the centre of the deepest basin of the lake (and should correspond to the District of Muskoka’s sampling site in that lake, if there is one). The nearshore site is selected by the lake association and must have a minimum depth of 2 metres. Two sites per lake is the minimum number of sites to be monitored.

Lake associations are responsible for ensuring they have trained volunteers available to sample at each sampling time, and a boat suitable to the purpose. Lake associations must also have a freezer available to freeze and store water samples until they are analyzed using fluorometry.

Program Costs

To participate in the Algae Monitoring Program, lake associations are required to purchase the necessary sampling equipment ($250 one time purchase) as well as pay an annual subscription fee ($250 annually for up to 4 sites).

Sampling Kit

The Sampling Kit is a one time purchase of $250 and includes the equipment needed to collect water samples to analyze for algae abundance:

  • Composite Sampler
  • Secchi Disk
  • 20 m Calibrated Line
  • Thermometer
  • 500 ml Amber HDPE Bottle (x2)
  • 125 ml Amber HDPE Bottle (x16)
  • Field Sheets
  • Labels
  • Clipboard
  • Pencil
  • Storage Bin
  • GPS/Cell Phone *
  • Cooler *
  • Ice Packs *

* Not included in the Sampling Kit

Algae Sampling Kit

Analysis Kit

An optional Analysis Kit, including a fluorometer, may be purchased by lake associations for $3,000:

  • FluoroQuik Phycocyanin & Chlorophyll a Dual-Channel Fluorometer Kit
  • Digital Thermometer
  • Data Sheets
  • Clipboard
  • Pencil/Pen
  • Thawing & Storage Bin
  • Heater
  • Instructions
Algae Analysis Kit

Analysis Kits will be available for short-term loan to lake associations that opt to not purchase their own kit in order to analyze their water samples.

Annual Subscription Fee

Lake associations participating in the Algae Monitoring Program will pay a $250 subscription fee annually for up to two pairs of sites (four sites total). A higher subscription fee will be charge for lake associations that want to sample more than 4 sites.

The subscription fee helps MWC cover the cost of coordinating the program and producing an annual report.

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