Congratulations Tyler on your algae growing project!!!
Dr. Krista Hennig from Lassell College recently used Algae Research and Supply's algae for her non-majors biology class. They investigated the factors that effect algae growth by varying:
They used spectrophotometers set to 750nM to quantify the growth of the algae.
The project worked so well- they sent us pictures!
Thank You Dr. Henning for having us be part of your students projects!
Measuring out algae
Pouring the algae into Erlenmeyer flasks for culturing
Microscope investigation with wet mounts
Algae tests growing out for a week
Hand drawing of spirulina under a microscope
Student preparing a wet mount slide for microscopic examination
Growing algae to feed to your self or animals is absolutely fun, but you need to keep in mind that there are risks involved. This article outlines some of the risks, and how to avoid them.
Lawyer talk: Algae Research and Supply offers no guarantee warranty or prediction that growing algae for human or animal consumption will be safe. While many algae and cyanobacteria strains are consumed by humans and animals, dangers may themselves during the culturing of the organisms that could be deleterious to health.
Now that that is out is out of the way, lets get to the suggestions:
Buy commercially grown spirulina: If you want to completely mitigate risk, buy your chlorella from a reputable grower and your Spirulina from Earthrise Nutritionals. I am biased for Earthrise because I used to work there, and because they know their business very well. They have multiple checks for pathogens, toxins, heavy metals, and test the dried product for pathogens as well. Imported spirulina especially from China and India consistently fail quality tests. You could be damaging your body should you consume the cheap stuff.
Keep your water around pH 10. This alone 'should' mitigate pathogen growth (although read lawyer talk above). Spirulina is an extremophile and can grow at this high pH where most algae 'weeds' and pathogens can not. It makes it a simple barrier. Use our pH meter to prove to yourself that you are keeping the pH right. Keep in mind that as photosynthesis progresses the pH will increase as CO2 (carbonic acid) is fixed into biomasss. Our Media Kit is specially buffered to start around pH 9.75 to provide you with 2-3 batches of algae without having to add more CO2.
Get rid of detritus. Just like Mufasa told Symba "hey kid, stuff dies, don't eat the decomposing stuff." Ok...so he really didn't say that in the movie, but I'm sure it was a lesson. In the circle-of-spirulina-life, there will always be a constant rain of detritus. Every couple days in a healthy culture you need discard the chunks of dead algae that collect at the bottom. If you leave it there it will decompose, and likely create a new habitat for bad things to grow. Those bad things can directly make you sick, or be a catalyst for your culture to get sick.
Use common sense. If it smells bad, do not eat it. Your body has millions of years of evolution (or intelligent design, if you roll that way) training your taste buds and nose will give you a lot of data. If it is gross, trust me you will know.
Heat dry your product. Oven bake it to completely dry, and hold it at a temperature above 212F (100c) for a while to kill off pathogens.
Congratulations on an amazing art project by our costomer Alison Hiltner! She has bridged art and biology with her display now featured at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. Her project is called "It Is Yesterday".
"When a viewer blows into this apparatus, there's a CO2 sensor that collects data from their breath, and then interprets that data through an Arduino that then turns on and off the aeration pumps," -Hiltner
Great work, Alison!
Those of you who know me, know that I am a huge Hard-Science Fiction fan (science based fiction, like the book The Martian by Andy Weir).
One of the concepts about the origin of life on planets comes from the concept of panspermia (the hypothes that life exists in other places in our solar system or the universe and was distributed by chance or other alien beings). My favorite example of this in fiction is the first scene in the Alien's series "Prometheus".
This week scientists tested some of the theories on panspermia. Basically, they put algae OUTSIDE of the International Space Station.
"They’re alive! Two algae survived 16 months on the exterior of the International Space Station ISS despite extreme temperature fluctuations and the vacuum of space as well as considerable UV and cosmic radiation."
-Dr. Thomas Leya at the Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology
We applaud this awesome research! Here are some links to their findings:
Hi Algae Fans,
I get asked at least once a week this question:
The answer is absolutely a yes... as long as you understand and are comfortable with what you are ingesting. I will be writing several articles that describe why we suggest caution. This first article is on identification of the eatable algae spirulina (Arthrospira).
Several times over the last three years I have had customers send me images from their microscopes comparing strains of that are labeled as Arthrospira. Specifically they compare Algae Research and Supply cultures to other 'Systems'. The morphological differences between ours and the others was shocking.
If you eat a blue green algae that produces toxins you can get very sick. Straight filaments are indicative of several types of toxic algae, here is a table of toxins from the World Health Organization (link).
Can you tell the difference between the algae sold by "Systems" and the toxic strain Oscillatoria? The home laboratory can not. Period.
Spirulina is morphological plastic. Under conditions of neglect, the strain can spontaneous convert from helical to straight. This means that the "Systems" folks algae could be spirulina. Are you willing to take that chance with your liver?
I had a chance to visit the University of Washington's Oceanography Campus this week. The school is world renowned with 60 faculty, 37 affiliate faculty, mainly drawn from the UW Applied Physics Laboratory and NOAA's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, are also active in graduate advising.
They have four areas of specialization (biological, chemical, physical, and marine geology and geophysics) and on a variety of interdisciplinary topics (climate change, extreme environments, and coastal systems). The School is the only leading oceanography program to offer a bachelors degree!
While I was not a student, I can track my academic linage through UW. My graduate advisor, Nick Welschmeyer earned his PhD here in the 1980s. I am sure that some of my laboratory habits are ones learned here in Seattle.
I just emailed a customer who asked about algae blooms in Florida. They wanted to do an experiment. Here is how I responded...
Hi Glen and Daughter,
Great experiment concept and line of inquiry. Yes, we get this question often. Best way to approach is to ask your daughter, what she is observing. Then start asking why. When she can't get the answer from the internet, or from you, then create SIMPLE logical tests to answer her question.
Here are some examples of: is my local water replete (nutrient rich) and can result in an algae bloom?
Experiment: gather water from your area and evaluate it for growing algae. (culture a few bottles of local water with and without f/2 nutrients- If the bottles grow identically, then the water is saturated with nutrients and can result in a bloom. If only the bottles that were given the f/2 algae nutrients bloom, then the water is not eutrophic.)
You can determine nutrient levels using test strips (go for nitrate and phosphate). Creating a map for your local waterways. (nothing I sell, but it is really cool).
I hope this helps,
Why? Nitrogen and Phosphorus. These chemicals are added to our waters through our wastewater stream and from runnoff from agriculture.
We put together a simple plan that you can do at home to test if your local algae is limited by phosphorus or nitrogen, or is already eutrophic (has a lot of nutrients and can result in an algae bloom). Basically, you grow the algae!
We are trying out having you download the lesson directly from Google Documents. If you have suggestions, simply email us and we can make edits or add your pictures or comments. Here is the link:
Hi Algae Friends,
We are finally getting to publishing our LESSON PLANS!!! This first one is a toxicology plan about how much oil (or any other chemical really) it would take to kill algae.
Do you have any ideas for a lesson? Let us know how we can help!