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Students partner with Georgia Power to identify algae in Georgia’s lakes

Microcystis aeruginosa may not be a familiar term for most people, but it’s something many have seen while out enjoying a day of recreation at the lake.Microcystis aeruginosa

This naturally occurring species, represents blue-green (cyanobacteria) algae, and is found in many Georgia lakes, especially in the coves where water may not flow as freely. In some cases, this alga can rapidly grow causing what’s known as an algal bloom.

Georgia College environmental science and biology students spent the semester working to identify different types of algae in Georgia’s lakes, determining the causes and examining the potential to cause harm.

The students along with Dr. Kalina Manoylov, associate professor of biology, conducted this research, which is the first of its kind in the state that identifies different types of algal blooms and provides resources on preventative measures.

“This was a great opportunity to use the theoretical knowledge we’ve learned in the classroom in a real-life situation,” said graduate student Christopher Babb. “The problem of algal blooms is such a complex issue, so to be able to provide a resource to identify the problem and issues that contribute to it while also offering suggestions for prevention was a valuable learning process for us.”

Graduate student Christopher Babb discusses the research findings with a Georgia Power representative.Manoylov developed the course after Georgia Power approached her for more information about the algal blooms and their causes. She decided to involve her students, giving them hands-on experience in research and an engaged learning opportunity.

“I do a lot with outside sources, but I find it very rewarding teaching students and bringing them to a level where they can ask amazing research questions like under what conditions algal cells double; what zooplankton species control algal populations and are algae producing toxins all the time,” said Manoylov. “They learn so much themselves and gain confidence by doing research in the field and in the lab. Then, they can go and conquer the world, as I tell them.”

On top of the research, students also produced a paper on prevention, response, causes and effects that will be presented to Georgia Power.

“We’ve had several algal blooms at Lake Sinclair and in lakes across the state recently,” said Scott Hendricks, lake resources manager from the Oconee-Sinclair land management office. “Georgia College is a great resource to help us understand the problem. Our partnership is a blessing.”

The state of Georgia currently is also interested in having a resource that identifies types of algal blooms and their potential impact on health and wellness, and the student’s research may be used to fill that void.

“Now that we have the information, we will be able to get it out if an algal bloom happens again,” said Hendricks.

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