Back to Top

CEES Engages in Cyanobacteria Research

- Guest blog submitted by Kira Wiseman.  Kira is a recent graduate of the B.S. Environmental Science program. Kira helps in data entry and water sampling processes in order to facilitate cyanobacteria research.

Essential research is being conducted in Indiana, amongst other states, to better understand cyanobacteria species and what causes the production of cyanotoxins.  The research helps to address particular issues, such as how cyanotoxins’ effects can and do harm human and wildlife health.  The first steps in exploring how cyanotoxins are produced is having an understanding of what cyanobacteria are, the habitats in which they live, and how algal blooms develop.  Then, along with analysis and interpretation of data collected from agencies studying cyanobacteria, there can be development of comparisons of what is understood of cyanobacteria which will in turn hopefully answer questions of concern.

In contribution to these research efforts, CEES-IUPUI, IU Bloomington, Grace College, and IDEM are collecting data to find correlations in the cyanobacteria presence and algal bloom growth specific to the summer months.  Samples are taken in lakes and reservoirs across the state of Indiana.  During the sampling process, physical parameters such as light penetration, water depth, and water temperature are recorded and nutrient concentrations are determined by further analysis in the lab. 

In the lab, algae are identified and enumerated by the means of a photon microscope.  Sample splits are filtered through 0.22 µm pore size filters and then analyzed for genetic determination of bacterial assemblage and zooplankton presence.  The according counts are entered into mega tables to keep track of the presence of each type of cyanobacteria and their distribution throughout Indiana’s reservoirs and lakes.  Currently, there are no state wide set standards for nutrient pollution in the state of Indiana.  IDEM uses the World Health Organization’s (WHO) guidelines for monitoring cyanobacteria in Indiana’s recreational reservoirs.

The collected data is utilized to generate distribution maps.  These maps are important for aiding decision-makers, such as IDEM, in anticipating the appearance of harmful algal blooms as well as highlighting sensitive areas in Indiana for recreational purposes.  This type of research is important because the public needs to be aware of the potential threats involved – such as contamination of our drinking water and the possible hazards from swimming or eating fish from lakes or reservoirs that may have advisory alerts for algal blooms.

Investigative cyanobacteria research is also important to help shine a light on those specific projects which need funding in order to moderate pollution control that contribute to algal bloom outbreaks – e.g. sedimentation, aging septic tanks, and stream erosion.  Via proper guidance from this intensive research, Indiana can start to disseminate funding for those categories deemed most important to tackle.

Ultimately, the goal is improvement in the understanding of these microscopic bacteria.  Refining and increasing current research and education are key to better comprehension of cyanobacteria and their effects on wildlife and human health. 

arolling's picture