Harmful algal blooms (HABs) are natural freshwater and marine hazards that impose substantial adverse impacts on the human use of coastal and marine resources. The socioeconomic and health impacts of HABs can be considerable, thereby making a case for “human dimensions” research to support HAB response. Human dimensions research is multidisciplinary, integrating social science, humanities, and other fields with natural science to enhance resource management by addressing human causes, consequences, and responses to coastal environmental problems. Case studies reported here illustrate the importance of human dimensions research. Incorporating such research into the scientific agenda – as well as into management decisions of public agencies concerned with natural resource management, environmental protection, and public health and welfare – requires the development of both strategic guidance and institutional capacity. The recent development of a multi-agency research strategy for HAB response and a strategic plan for human dimensions research represent two important steps in this direction.