May 03, 2023
Erol Altug, an A.P Biology teacher at the Stony Brook School in New York, Led his class in an experiment to determine the affect light has on algae growth. Using our Beaker Bag Algae Growing kits, the students set up two identical algae cultures. One was placed under fluorescent light that was on 24/7 while the other was placed high on a cabinet and only exposed to overhead lights when class was in session as well as whatever natural light was available in the classroom. After 9 months the Students had their answer.
So what do you think, Does light affect growth?
Check out their results below:
His class also performed an experiment on how Salinity affects Brine shrimp in our Brainy Briny Bags, check out their results here:
May 27, 2022
July 26, 2021
Nestled in the sandy desert of Santa Fe, New Mexico is Apogee Spirulina Farms. Over 5,000 square feet of ponds full of Spirulina glisten in the Santa Fe sunshine, cultured by Nicholas Petrovic using the “French Artisanal” method of algae cultivation. Nic has been growing Spirulina for about seven years and absolutely loves it. Spirulina has become increasingly popular as a sustainable source of protein.
Spirulina culture at Apogee Spirulina
Nic starts his days at 5:30 a.m. to beat the New Mexico heat. He checks out all his ponds, harvests some algae if need be, and does general maintenance around the farm. Done by noon, Nic is able to relax and enjoy his day. He goes back in the afternoon once the sun has gotten lower in the sky to ensure everything is functioning. Aside from general farm work, Nic brings his algae to farmers markets a few times a week, and teaches workshops on how to grow algae.
I asked Nic why he uses the French method to cultivate algae. The answer? “Quality of life.” Nic says, “The French have a different attitude, they don’t rush… the Spirulina will be there tomorrow.” This laid-back way of cultivating just calls for farmers to harvest what they need and keep the ponds growing, rather than constantly growing more and expanding.
As with most people we interview, Nic did not always know about his passion for algae. He studied hotel and restaurant management in college, and owned a valet parking company in San Francisco for some time. After the economic crash of 2008, he wanted to change his path and entered the field of sustainability. In 2009, Nic attended a class that grew algae for biofuel research. Nic found fuel production interesting but could tell the technology wasn’t quite ready to sell algae as biofuel commercially. However, he fell in love with algae and particularly enjoyed working with Spirulina.
As Nic began growing Spirulina, he was immersed in a network of small-scale Spirulina farmers in New Mexico. He wanted to learn more about growing, and eventually was put in touch with algae cultivators in France. In 2012, Nic went to France to learn their method of Spirulina culturing.
Currently, Nic has an agreement with Santa Fe Community College: he can use their land, water, and power to grow Spirulina, and in return he teaches a few classes and takes on interns. This partnership allows Nic to cultivate his algae while continuing to spread his knowledge and inspire more algae farmers. In addition to running his own farm, Nic also offers workshops for those interested in cultivating algae. Nic’s Apogee Spirulina Farm is all about paying it forward, and he is happy to report that many of his workshop attendees have started their own farms all over the world.
Nic believes it is incredibly important to learn about algae, and strongly believes that “It’s the future.”Algae has a small footprint and is very high in protein. Part of the reason Nic entered the Spirulina farming trade is because New Mexico is a food desert, and he wants to help remedy that. “I’m all about feeding people right now,” he added.
For those who may be interested in algae culturing, Nic has some advice: patience. According to Nic, those who grow algae shouldn’t rush to see results, but rather enjoy the process. “Everyone should be growing some Spirulina at home,” he says, “ It’s the wonder algae.” Finally, Nic encourages those who grow algae to share their knowledge. In France, all the algae culturing knowledge is open-source, and Nic wants to continue that sharing in his own practice. The algae world is all about sharing and lifting each other up, rather than competition.
Learn more about Apogee Spirulina here
Find Apogee Spirulina on social media here: Instagram Facebook
May 30, 2021
Blast off! Haley Roach and her teaching team of Park Heritage Middle School has created a “Journey to Mars” project for her students involving math, physics, biology, government, and, most importantly, ALGAE! Haley teaches 6th and 7th grade science at Park Heritage middle school in rural Indiana, and absolutely loves her job. Algae Research and Supply (ARS) was lucky enough to meet Haley when she was designing the “Journey to Mars” project, and we are very excited to learn more about her!
Haley describes teaching as “the best job in the world”. As her mentor once told her, being a teacher gives you the freedom of an entrepreneur, and the job security of a businessman. Haley finds this sentiment true. She loves her students and creating lesson plans is a creative outlet. “Teaching is my job but also my hobby,” Haley says. She is able to explore her creative side when designing lessons and her classroom, and is happy to spend time with funny, smart, and creative tweenagers.
The “Journey to Mars” activity is Haley’s end of the year project. You can find more information here. This project not only involves science, but math and social studies knowledge as well. It involves the whole teaching team! Haley was inspired to do the project because she knew that algae is an excellent source of oxygen, and is edible. She found ARS online and bought some algae. Though the project started out a little rocky, Haley got in touch with Matt (ARS’ Cheif Scientist) and they worked together to make the project a success! Haley says “it was really easy to work with Algae Research and Supply, I wish I'd found you guys sooner. There are lots of free resources and help”.
Haley thinks it’s incredibly important for kids to learn about algae. “Half the world’s oxygen comes from algae,” Haley says. In the future, she wants to ask her students where oxygen comes from, and explain the importance of algae to them. Plus, photosynthesis experiments and demonstrations are much easier to do with algae than with land plants in terms of time and space. Haley’s classroom is full of algae cultures in our Beaker Bags. They don’t take up a lot of space, and are easy to clean up. Finally, the potential for algae to be used as biofuel is a fascinating concept Haley has introduced to her students. Her students have been very interested in the concept of algae as biofuel, which is promising, as they are our future scientists.
Haley did not always know she wanted to be a teacher (which I think is crazy because she’s so passionate). Haley studied at Purdue university, and was initially on the Pre- Vet track. However, Haley did not like cutting things open, and quickly switched to biology. While studying biology, she realized she loved it and understood it much more than her peers. She began tutoring her peers in biology, and the lightbulb went off -- she should be a biology teacher! Haley initially taught high school bio, but when she was on maternity leave, a job opened at her local middle school. Though she initially never thought of teaching middle school, she had a gut instinct that it would be perfect for her. “I had to have this job… I wanted to be Miss Frizzle,'' Haley joked. Haley has now been at Park Heritage middle school for three years, and is so happy to be teaching all kinds of science, meeting creative, smart, and hilarious kids, and participating in the community she teaches in.
For more info about the “Journey to Mars” project, click here
- Erin F. Fox, 2021
May 20, 2021
Great Work David Lillard, AP Biology teacher in Kalispel, MT!!!
"we changed an abiotic factor to see how it affects the population of algae and then the brine shrimp eat the algae, so you know if we change the algae population it’s going to affect the brine shrimp as well,” Lillard said.
By HILARY MATHESON
Daily Inter Lake | May 19, 2021 12:00 AM
As schools shut down and students were quarantined during the pandemic, educators such as Glacier High School science teacher David Lillard sought ways to give students a hands-on experience whether they were at school or at home.
In Lillard’s case it was a lab he came up with called Algae Alive!, drawing inspiration from an experiment he saw on display at a Seattle science conference he attended with colleagues prior to the pandemic. Algae Alive! ties into a unit on ecology and lets students design an experiment using algae and brine shrimp by coming up with their own questions, hypotheses and independent variables.
Through a Kalispell Education Foundation $1,098 grant, he was able to purchase supplies and equipment that would be easily accessible to students on campus or at home. He has also reached out to other teachers about adapting the project to the elementary and middle-school level.
“I’m always looking for ways that we can have living things in the lab that we can experiment with,” Lillard said. “It’s hard to find living models that, you know, are cheap and can be used effectively in the classroom without a lot of equipment, and I just thought it was a cool idea. It’s actually its own little ecosystem.”
FORTUNATELY, WHILE the lab was being conducted in his Advanced Placement (AP) biology class last month, all the students were attending school on campus.
On April 21, the AP biology students were nearing the end of the 17-day lab. At one table, junior Bridgett Meskis opened up her notebook where she was tracking data such as algae growth and was on the third day of tracking the brine shrimp, which they had added on day 10.
“We’re learning how different parts of the environment work together,” Meskis said.
The lab focuses on how abiotic (non-living) factors, such as temperature, light and salinity, for example, affect the population of algae and brine shrimp, Lillard explained.
“So we changed an abiotic factor to see how it affects the population of algae and then the brine shrimp eat the algae, so you know if we change the algae population it’s going to affect the brine shrimp as well,” Lillard said.
“They designed their independent variable — what they wanted to test — and so they had to have different hypotheses,” he added.
Meskis’ group changed salinity.
“We have all these samples of water and they all have different amounts of salt in relation to the water and then we put algae in,” Meskis said. “We let the algae grow and we measured how much of it there is and then put brine shrimp in. Will the ecosystem we’ve created favor algae or the brine shrimp?
“We’re trying to determine what the environment prefers, or what organisms prefer what environments,” she added.
IN ANOTHER group, junior Marius DeVries said they changed light intensity using different bulb wattages. Group member Kait Giffin said the group hypothesized “If the populations have more light then they will grow better and faster.”
Counting the brine shrimp will tell how the algae population relates to the brine-shrimp population, DeVries said. In preparing to count the shrimp, DeVries turned on his phone’s flashlight function and held it up to a graduated cylinder containing the greenish liquid to better see the tiny aquatic crustaceans.
“The alga is a producer and it gets its energy and grows from the light and then the brine shrimp eat that,” DeVries said, basically showing how they limit each other.
He said at the end of the lab, the group plans to plot the data on a chart.
“Eventually, at the end, we can average the data and once we graph it we’ll be able to make a good conclusion.”
Lillard noted, “Hopefully they’re going to see how the population of algae has changed over that period of time.”
Reporter Hilary Matheson may be reached at 758-4431 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
May 17, 2021
Phosphate is one of the macronutrients. N:P:K in photosynthetic world are the macronutrients Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K). For most algae cultures, a ratio of 5:1:1 to 10:1:1 is appropriate for NPK.
Knowing that the nitrogen and phosphorus are significantly different in the concentrations needed to satisfy the growth of plants, we at ARS will encourage folks new to growing algae and experiments to use nitrogen, not phosphorus, for their first experiments. You are much more likely to successful limiting N than P.
Why: Higher concentrations of N and it is easier to measure (test strip). Measuring phosphorus is challenging because very low concentrations can have dramatic effects on photosynthesis. Your body is composed of NPK, how much phosphate will be added to water by simply dipping in your finger?
No problem. We suggest doing a two-step dose response (video on how to). Step 1- Test from a concentration of ZERO, and increase the concentration exponentially to a toxic concentration. In doing so, you can capture the entire range of what is possible.
Step-2 Refine the range to explore your point of interest. You could consider exploring the fastest growth, largest cells, minimum concentration for growth, or lethal dose (LD)
Water concentrations of phosphate are between 0.001 to 0.5mg/L. So pick a your dilutions to encapsulate those ranges.
sources of phosphate:
Great article by the US EPA on water monitoring of phosphorus.
May 09, 2021
April 22, 2021
Some of our California Neighbors made some versions of our algae bead labs for their middle school students. They offered to share them here:
*Be a cool human rules apply: cite them/us, no profit made from repackaging lessons, all the standard copyright stuff!
The ARS lessons are attached to the product page for each kit.
Consider watching our videos on Photosynthesis and Temperature also.
April 03, 2021
Our Interview with Harris Muhlstein
We all know that children are the future of our planet -- our future doctors, scientists, teachers, and researchers. With this in mind, Algae Research Supply is honored to have recently interviewed Harris Muhlstein, the School Programs Coordinator for the University of North Carolina, Wilmington’s (UNCW) MarineQuest program. Algae Research Supply got to know Mr. Muhlstein through our teacher training program.
Muhlstein (known as ‘Mr. M’) works with educators to plan and lead marine-science field trips in his lab at the Center for Marine Science, in the field (at beaches and marshes, on research vessels and floating docks, on kayaks in the Cape Fear River and Intercoastal Waterway), at schools, or virtually. Most of the lessons and projects are based on actual UNCW student research and all are designed to make learning fun and engaging. As Mr. M puts it, “MarineQuest is more than just another day at the beach; MarineQuest is making waves in environmental education!”
Muhlstein loves working with kids. “Because I began my career as a professional scientist with a strong research background, I absolutely love to immerse my students in relevant marine science experiences where they get to utilize the scientific method to solve problems.” He also says that introducing young students to phytoplankton is one of his favorite things to do, as it is not normally on their minds when they think of ocean life. Muhlstein says that while most kids think about dolphins, whales, sharks, and other megafauna, he gets “...a real kick out of blowing their minds with an in-depth exploration of the extreme biodiversity of the plankton community.” After blowing their minds, Muhlstein introduces young scientists to the vast world of educational and career opportunities for those who are interested in these “awesome drifters.”
MarineQuest has been around for over 40 years now, and provides excellent opportunities for young people interested in the marine environment. UNCW works with the Center for Marine Science and the Watson College of Education to bring programs that allow young people to explore and discover marine habitats. These programs shape our youth into becoming environmentally responsible adults. MarineQuest offers school programs, weekend programs, and summer camps for kids from preschool to pre-college.
Muhlstein was not always a science educator, however. He grew up as a “beach bum” on the coast of Long Island. In addition to having this connection to the ocean, his father was an abalone diver and Muhlstein says, “The stories of his haphazard adventures always captivated me and probably were the spark that sent me on this wild marine science/education journey.” In addition, Muhlstein’s home on the water made him very aware of the devastating impact Harmful Algal blooms had on livelihood, the economy, and the shellfish industry. He had never considered a career in education, as speaking in front of people made him nervous.
His “spark” so to speak occurred in his junior year at UNCW. His guest lecturer, a phytoplankton researcher, told the story about how his lab solved the mystery of mass penguin deaths at a popular aquarium. After examining gut samples, the lab discovered the penguins were consuming fish with high levels of a toxic diatom. In a “soap opera twist for the ages” one of Muhlstein’s fellow students had fed the penguins before the incident! After class, Muhlstein asked the guest lecturer if he could volunteer in his lab...and the rest is history.
After earning a BS in Marine Biology from UNCW, and an MS in Marine Science with a focus in phytoplankton ecology from the University of Texas, Muhlstein went on to be a phytoplankton ecologist at UNCW’s Center for Marine Science. There, he worked in a lab that specialized in culturing harmful algae. His first experience in teaching- an introductory Oceanography Lab class- changed all that. He found that he had been nervous for nothing, and not only was talking in front of people not bad, it was actually really good! As his career as a phytoplankton ecologist, he would often fondly remember his times in the classroom. With the support of his supervisor, he jumped into the education world and never looked back. He began teaching in high school classrooms, but transitioned to his current position as School Program Coordinator at MarineQuest when the job presented itself. It is truly the perfect position, as it combines his love for marine education with his research background.
Algae Research Supply is very grateful for the people out there like Mr. M, committed to the education of our future climate leaders.
For more about MarineQuest, click here
January 10, 2021
Art and science intersect more often than you might think. Art is a way to express the prowess and beauty of science in a creative way that is accessible for everyone to enjoy. Recently, Algae Research and Supply had the honor of interviewing Dr. Jennifer Willet, director of the INCUBATOR Art Lab at the University of Windsor in Canada. The INCUBATOR Lab is a fully functioning lab that researches the intersection of art and science. Despite the COVID closures, the lab has been able to get research access to continue work.
Dr. Jennifer Willet by Dylan Kristy, 2018
Dr. Jennifer Willet is an Associate Professor in the School of Creative Art at the university, and the Canada Research Chair in arts, science, and ecology. She is a traditionally trained artist, having earned a BFA from the University of Calgary, an MFA from the University of Guelph, and a PhD from Concordia University at Montreal in interdisciplinary Humanities (essentially building her own program from the foundations in humanities). Dr. Willet is a very talented illustrator and painter, and has a background in printmaking, specifically intaglio (copper-etched plate printmaking). She has always been interested in science and medicine and its interaction with the human body and human subjectivity. Furthermore, her background in printmaking crossed over into the world of lab work, as both have high standards for sterility and dexterity.
During her education, Dr. Willet created art in many different mediums with the common themes of science and biotechnology. During her undergraduate studies, she drew cadavers while studying anatomy, and later went on to work in a Human Anatomy Lab. This introduction to lab work proved to her that she could fit into a place that she initially did not feel she belonged. Dr. Willet’s travels also brought her to Symbiotica - the world’s leading Bioart research lab - at the University of Western Australia. There, she researched the techniques they used to fuse science and art. Eventually, while working for the Art and Genomics Centre at the University of Leiden, Dr. Willet dreamed up what would become the INCUBATOR art lab.
The INCUBATOR Art Lab by Justin Elliott, 2019
As a fully functioning lab, the INCUBATOR Art Lab adheres to laboratory health and safety guidelines. As Director, Dr. Willet must attend health and safety meetings and complete paperwork in addition to doing all the fun science stuff. Prior to having her own lab, Dr. Willet traveled and worked hands-on in other labs. While she loved working with scientists and laboratories around the world, it became difficult to work around the main goals of the labs she was using. She loves having her own lab, which allows her to put her best effort and all her focus into her own projects. Dr. Willet works with students and academics from all realms of academia, including biologists, philosophers, and artists. The intersection of these disciplines aids in the creation of projects that educate the public.
Shifting gears to algae, here’s what Dr. Willet has to say:
“I love algae! Algae is the number one producer of all oxygen on our planet, it might actually save the day. We all need to spend more time talking about algae.”
The INCUBATOR lab has two algae art pieces: Algae Spiral and The Great Lakes Algae Organ. The goal of these algae projects is to give people a different perspective on algae. In the Great Lakes Basin - where INCUBATOR is located - the main perception of algae is of the harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie. Dr. Willet wants to change the perspective on this wonderful microorganism.
Jennifer Willet, The Great Lakes Algae Organ, 2016 Photo: Caitlin Sutherland
The Great Lakes Algae Organ is a street organ designed for algae. It is a mobile algae lab that provides agitation, nutrients, and light to its microorganism passengers, all the while playing “Yankee Doodle Dandy”. Dr. Willet has presented this art piece both in galleries and out in the communities. Audience members are at first intrigued by the art, and then sucked into discussions about algae as a biofuel, oxygen producer, and as an invasive species.
The Algae Spiral is meant to bring people a more meditative experience with algae. Spirulina, a popular algae and superfood, is pumped through tubes in a pattern on the wall. Watching algae move through the tubes harmoniously is very meditative, and is meant to bring people closer to algae.
Jennifer Willet, Algae Spiral II, 2020 Photo: Scott Lee
Fun fact: the algae in these art pieces is from Algae Research and Supply!
“The way I feel about my job is the way you feel about your dog,” Dr. Willet jokes. She absolutely loves what she does, and often has moments of “I can’t believe this is happening… this is really my job!” Dr. Willet’s overall goal is to educate others about a “biotech future”. Data and formulas can only do so much in terms of solving the world’s problems such as climate change or the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Willet seeks to redefine what a biotech future could be. She draws from research methods outside the scientific method that can help solve problems hundreds of years from now. The intersection of art and science allows us to break away from the rigid data-driven aspect of science in favor of a collaborative, communicative method of solving the world's problems. Dr. Willet envisions a biotech future for everyone that engages people socially and culturally while working towards an egalitarian and sustainable future.
Algae Research and Supply thanks Dr. Willet for her time and for her contribution to biotechnology education. To see more of Dr. Willet’s projects, click here: https://incubatorartlab.com/
-Erin F. Fox, 2021
October 13, 2020
Last week, Algae Research Supply had the honor of interviewing Jaimi Butler, Coordinator of the Great Salt Lake Institute in Utah.
The Great Salt Lake Institute has been around for over 12 years, and is funded through a Westminster College grant. Their mission is to use research and education to connect the greater community to the Great Salt Lake.
As Coordinator, Jaimi works with college students and faculty to connect them to the research going on at Great Salt Lake.
Jaimi got a Fisheries and Wildlife degree from Utah State University, and her life goal was to work outside and in nature. “Birds and bugs,” jokes Jaimi, “I wanted to be in the mud and the salt.” She loved classes involving Math and Chemistry, but her favorite part of college was meeting incredibly interesting people and finding new connections from Utah State- which she continues to make to this day.
Before working at the Great Salt Lake Institute, Jaimi worked in the brine shrimp harvesting industry, harvesting shrimp from the lake for use in commercial aquaculture. There, she helped the harvesters understand population and ecosystem dynamics so the overall ecosystem was not interrupted by their activities. After that, Jaimi was a field biologist for the State of Utah, and aided with the management of brine shrimp harvesting from that end.
Though she loved her jobs, she felt restricted in the impact she could make. She couldn’t share her passion for the ecology of the environment and the lake to the extent she wanted to as a field biologist.
At the Great Salt Lake Institute, she enjoys being part of a “hub of information and experience” to help students and those passionate about the ecosystem learn more about the Great Salt Lake. She feels incredibly lucky to have the ability to do fieldwork and interact with nature as often as she does, “It’s the coolest place to work. Ever.”
According to Jaimi, “There are 8 million things that [she] could be doing in a day.” As Coordinator, she writes grants for undergraduate research, manages grants, and spends funds received from grants. She also works with students and aids them with their projects and connects with the community through community science projects. Pre-COVID, she would help with community events such as the Spider Festival (an event on Antelope Island to celebrate the Western Spotted Orb Weaver).
Jaimi’s favorite part of her job is working with the "super cool people" she sees at the Institute -- students, faculty, research, farmers -- or anyone else working with the Great Salt Lake. “It’s really satisfying to feel like you're making a difference in this little place in the world.”
Another thing that Jaimi loves is that she can work with artists that are creating land art and art of the Great Salt Lake. She loves seeing how people can connect to the lake in different and creative ways. Jaimi herself has let her creativity shine by designing things for the Great Salt Lake’s etsy shop.
Above (left to right), are Bonnie Baxter (director of GSLI), Dr. David Parrot (assistant director of GSLI), and Jaimi Butler (coordinator of GSLI), with singing brine shrimp puppets.
In terms of our future young scientists, Jaimi has this advice: ”follow your passion… your passion may not always be playing with the salt and the bugs and the mud, but maybe you’re really great at illustrating… or your superpower is driving big equipment.” As she knows from experience, not everyone has a straight path, but if you follow your passions it will lead you to somewhere you’ll love.
To learn more about the Great Salt Lake Institute, check out their website here: https://westminstercollege.edu/student-life/great-salt-lake-institute/about-the-great-salt-lake-institute
To explore brine shrimp, and be just like Jaimi, try the Brainy Briny Kits!
-Erin F. Fox, 2020