The public health, tourism, fisheries, and ecosystem impacts from harmful algal blooms (HABs) have all increased over the past few decades. This has led to heightened scientific and regulatory attention, and the development of many new technologies and approaches for research and management. This, in turn, is leading to significant paradigm shifts with regard to, e.g., our interpretation of the phytoplankton species concept (strain variation), the dogma of their apparent cosmopolitanism, the role of bacteria and zooplankton grazing in HABs, and our approaches to investigating the ecological and genetic basis for the production of toxins and allelochemicals. Increasingly, eutrophication and climate change are viewed and managed as multifactorial environmental stressors that will further challenge managers of coastal resources and those responsible for protecting human health. Here we review HAB science with an eye toward new concepts and approaches, emphasizing, where possible, the unexpected yet promising new directions that research has taken in this diverse field.