May 30, 2020
Algae Research Supply came across a very creative way to use algae - Chlorella Vulgaris, in particular. Apparently, you can use the algae to make photographs! The process was first investigated by French artist Lia Giraud about 10 years ago, who called the process “algaegraphy". Here in the states, University of Washington PhD student Russell Marx has also been experimenting with using algae for photography. Russell’s approach is getting a lot of attention as of late, with recent articles in Petapixel and DIY Photography.
According to the Petapixel article, Russell was looking for a way to combine art and science. In their photography ventures, Russell used Chlorella Vulgaris because it is a heavier strain of algae- it sunk to the bottom of the petri dish and wouldn’t float/ move after it was mixed with water. Then, a film negative would be projected onto the algae. Because algae is a photosynthesizer, the algae exposed to brighter light grew more, thus growing the image in the petri dish.
Above is the photo negative projected onto the algae.
“I’ve always liked biology, and inspired by microbial art, I looked for a way to merge photography and science,” Marx told Petapixel.
We caught up with Russell to find out more about this super creative way to use our favorite stuff - algae! Here’s some highlights from our interview:
We first asked Russell how they feel about all the attention they are getting for this cool new technique.
“It's a welcome surprise,” Marx said. “I wasn’t expecting to get any attention… it's just a thing I did because I wanted to.“
We then asked Russell about how they got interested in the project in the first place. According to Marx, their grandparents gifted them a photographic enlarger. Then, since Marx did not have a photo enlarger, they started to brainstorm ideas for how to use it. Marx’s first thought was using chlorophyll pigment, but switched to aglae later on.
Marx first attempted this project with Spirulina, but found that the growth of the helical structure of this algae was impeded when they tried to encase it in resin to keep it from moving. Marx switched to chlorella vulgaris, for it is a more dense strain of algae and would sit at the bottom of the dish.
Since we are all stuck inside currently, we asked Russell some of the things they’ve been doing while in quarantine. As a busy grad student, Marx has mainly been working on schoolwork. But, in their spare time, Russell has been working on side projects in linguistics, and of course doing some algae photo printing.
Lastly, we asked Russell what they would suggest people at home do to explore how science and art can come together.
“There’s a lot of science do to at home that people aren’t aware of,” Marx said. They recommended trying their algae printing process, it is very accessible and only needs a projector, a petri dish, and some algae. Furthermore, people of all ages can explore botany in their own neighborhood or backyard. Russell also mentioned that vegetables can be ground up into a paste-like ink that can be used for art projects. Anything is possible when you let your mind be creative!
We want to thank Russell for taking the time to talk with us. Read more about Russell here, or check out their new social media page! And stay tuned – Russell has agreed to make Algae Research Supply’s logo in algae and we’ll be posting it soon.
May 05, 2020
Bored at home? Make your time at home more colorful with our test tube kits!
Click here to buy now!
Our test tube kits are the perfect way to spend a day at home. Our starter test tube kit includes a rack of test tubes, beakers, pipettes, colors for mixing, and seeds for germinating. This kit is all research quality material, specifically put together for you and your children to enjoy the wonder of scientific discovery from the comfort of your own home.
In these test tubes, you and your young scientists can mix pigments to discover the wonders of color making. This is a perfect hands-on approach to learning about primary and secondary colors, or just to have fun in color mixing. Furthermore, adding salt to various colors can allow one test tube to hold multiple layers of color! This- in addition to looking super cool- can introduce your young scientist to the concept of density. The reaction of the pigments together to create vibrant colors is an easy way to introduce your child to the world of chemical reactions and laboratory work- start them young on the chemistry path!
Another way to use these tubes is to cultivate your own plants! Our kits come with seeds to germinate plants from the comfort of your own home. Your children can plant seeds, and watch them grow into small plants over time! This will teach your children the wonders of plant growth (and patience) as they watch their seeds bloom. This experiment also starts your children on the STEM path early, soon you’ll have young botanists on your hands!
Instructions are provided, materials are reusable, and these kits provide tons of educational fun. We here at Algae Research Supply want to provide affordable, high quality tools for children to learn about the sciences. Start today with our test tube kit.
Still not convinced? Look at these videos of our Chief Scientist’s children playing with these kits.
March 12, 2020
I have two very happy spirulina cultures from you and had a growing question. I have access to a kangen machine that I can dial in the pH of the water. If I use the kangen water, what elements of the nutrients and salts can I eliminate? Do you know?
Thanks for any input on this,
September 19, 2019
We interviewed Christopher Scianni, an environmental scientist supervisor who works in understanding how invasive species travel around the world through maritime ships. He researches how current shipping technology and practices spread non native species around the globe- and how to create policy to reduce this infectious spread.
By title, I’m a senior environmental scientist supervisor. I work primarily on biological invasion ecology, trying to better understand how commercial maritime ships inadvertently move entire biological communities around the globe. My team collaborates on research to understand how different shipping practices influence the risk of introducing non-native species and we develop and implement regulatory policies aimed at reducing that risk.
Being outside has always interested me, and I was hooked on the ocean from an early age. Whether tide pooling with my family or visiting the beaches or local aquarium, I’ve always felt a draw toward the ocean. Going after degrees in marine biology and marine science gave me an opportunity to mesh my interest in the ocean with a desire to learn more about how ocean processes work. Moving into an invasion ecology-focused career added an extra layer of probing how our actions impact biological interactions and how ecosystems function.
It varies. Fieldwork often comes in bunches, separated by long spells of data analysis and policy creation/review/revision. Most of my fieldwork is spent studying the biological communities that accumulate on the underwater surfaces of ocean-going ships (i.e., biofouling or hull fouling communities). About a decade ago, I spent a good deal of time diving under ships in ports around the world to identify patterns associated with different ship types and different areas on individual ships. Our goal is to understand what shipping practices lead to the different biological patterns we find, and we work with the shipping industry to find solutions. In recent years, I’ve replaced most of my SCUBA diving surveys with remotely operated vehicle (ROV) surveys. Now, most of my fieldwork is spent flying the ROV on hull transects.
As stated above, my experiences as a child drove in me an interest and curiosity about the ocean. I always try to view my work in the context of how a similar little kid today might view their interactions with the ocean, and the same for their kids. On one level, we live in a global economy that necessitates ocean transport; that’s not going away. I view my work as necessary to ensure that our society’s interaction in the global economy is conducted in a way that ensures that those next generations of kids can be amazed by, and called to, the ocean and a functioning coastal environment.
I went to the California State University, Long Beach as an undergrad. I double-majored in Marine Biology and Biology with an emphasis in Zoology, I also had a Chemistry minor. For graduate school, I received a Master of Science in Marine Science from the California State University, Stanislaus. All of my graduate work was conducted at the Moss Landing Marine Laboratories where I focused on Biological Oceanography.
I’d have to say it was a tie. My favorite undergraduate major class was the biology of marine zooplankton, that class convinced me that I should continue my education into graduate school. My favorite general education class was interpersonal communication, I still think that’s the most consequential class students can take to improve their chances of successfully navigating the working world.
I worked at a local aquarium while in my undergrad years, and my supervisor there was the other reason why I decided to continue to graduate school. We had regular conversations about school and science, and his enthusiasm for his work was contagious. He challenged me, gave me a lot of responsibilities, and was always there to offer constructive feedback. I now supervise and mentor a college or graduate intern every summer, and I strive to model my mentorship after his.
This is probably obvious, but when I was in school, there was more of a firewall between coding languages and marine science. I learned all about biostatistics, but hardly anything related to computer languages and coding. That was probably the norm, aside from physical oceanography students. Nowadays, it seems like coding is integrated into everything. I often must collaborate with other scientists who have coding specialties and I’m always amazed by them.
In relation to my work, I think it’s critical that we know where the products that we buy and use come from, and how they get from their origin to us. I think it’s important to make informed decisions about what we use, and part of that is knowing the monetary and non-monetary costs included in the production and transport of those goods.
Go volunteer or find internships to gain experience doing different things. The experience is valuable, but the importance of the network of colleagues and mentors you create is beyond measure.
Pictured above from left to right:
Matt Huber, Judah Goldberg, Sarah Smith, Lawrence Younan, Paul Chua, and Chris Scianni
September 19, 2019
Vollebak, a London- based startup, has started to create t shirts out of wood pulp and dyeing them with algae pigment. The shirts are compostable, so at the end of their life owners can bury the shirts in their backyard and they will biodegrade. The wood pulp is from sustainably sourced beech, spruce and eucalyptus trees, and the algae is grown in a bioreactor.
The wood from the trees is broken down and spun into textile yarn for the shirt. Once finished, the shirt is just a comfortable as a normal t shirt. The shirt is then dyed with algae pigment. The algae is passed through a filter and becomes and algae paste. This paste is then dried into an algae powder. This powder is added to a water-based binder to create the algae ink. Algae cannot survive out of water, but once the ink absorbed into the shirt, dead algae makes for a natural dye.The algae changes color over time as it fades.
The t shirt will not break down when it is being worn or even in your closet. It will only break down once it is in the ground surrounded by fungus and decomposers.
Textiles take up 7.6% of the world’s landfill mass, and the textile industry uses over 25 trillion tons of water for dyeing t shirts and other fabrics. This startup is hopefully a step towards more sustainable clothing manufacturing practices.
Check out the shirts here: https://www.vollebak.com/product/plant-and-algae-t-shirt/
September 19, 2019
Although the eruption of the Kilauea volcano in July of last year caused much damage on the surface, the tons of lava flowing into the sea stimulated a massive algae bloom.
The bloom was so large it was seen from space, stretching over 2,000 square miles. Scientists say this massive bloom is due to the lava heating up deeper water, thus releasing more nutrients for phytoplankton to consume. The lava pouring into the ocean lead to the rise of silicic acid, nitrate, phosphate, and iron levels in the water. The bloom dissipated soon after the lava stopped flowing, but this phenomena leads scientists to question what we know about our ecosystem.
When the volcano erupted, scientists did not expect the lava to trigger a flourishing of life, yet more research into the phenomena explains this event. Researchers say that even knowing the type of phytoplankton that responded to the lava is huge in predicting the types of plants that will grow based upon the nutrients given- which is useful in creating fertilizer. The linkage of different environmental processes is huge in understanding the world we live in.
Though it is unclear how this event affected other marine life, scientists are working to investigate the newly formed pond in the Halema‘uma‘u crater at Kilauea’s summit.
September 03, 2019
The largest algae bloom in history is of Sargassum, a stringy, brown seaweed that serves as food and refuge for marine life. The large bloom of Sargassum stretches over 600 miles along Floridian and Mexican beaches, and appears to be the new normal in affected areas. Though Sargassum is non- toxic, in large amounts it can smother corals, and when on beaches it releases a terrible rotten egg smell.
With hurricane Dorian approaching the Florida coast, scientists have been speculating as to the affect the hurricane may have on this large bloom. Though they are unsure of what will actually happen, they have come up with multiple theories of what can potentially happen.
One potential outcome is that major Sargassum features can be disturbed due to the intense weather. Despite the disturbances, though, scientists say that the Sargassum will be able to reform after the storm passes.
Another potential outcome is that the hurricane may bring more resources to the Sargassum, nourishing it and allowing it to grow even more.
Both of these speculations are based upon limited observation, but are very real possibilities. Scientists still have plenty to learn about the relationship between hurricanes and algae blooms.
- Erin F. Fox
Sources: 88.5 WMNF, BBC
September 03, 2019
Toxic algae blooms have become increasingly common in recent times, with its thick film covering beaches and lakes in areas across the globe. These blooms are toxic to humans, exposure can cause severe illness including vomiting and respiratory issues- depending on the nature of exposure.
Harmful algae blooms are also toxic to animals. There have been multiple reported cases of canine deaths just this past summer following exposure to algae blooms. Dogs can be exposed to algae blooms the same ways we can: by swimming in affected waters, accidental ingestion of affected water, or breathing in toxic fumes.
To protect your dog from harmful algae blooms, do not let them near water with telltale slimy film floating on top. You should stay away from algae blooms if at all possible.
However, accidents do happen. If you think your pet has been exposed, take them to the vet immediately. There is not much time between exposure to attempt to reverse the effects. Do not wait- it may be too late. Symptoms will appear just minutes after exposure. Some symptoms of exposure include itchiness of the skin and eyes, vomiting and diarrhea, lethargy, or even seizures.
Overall, do not let your dog swim in a polluted body of water. Though some natural ponds are safe, and blue-green algae normally isn’t toxic, you can never be too careful. With the rise of harmful algae blooms, do not let your pet swim somewhere unless you are positive it is safe.
- Erin F. Fox
September 03, 2019
We interviewed Melissa Mahoney, a fisheries policy manager who is passionate about creating healthy ocean and fishing communities. Melissa hopes to help with better management of fish resources in a step towards creating a cleaner future.
Currently [I am a] fisheries policy manager for EDF.
I love the ocean, love fish, and enjoy the challenges of fisheries management.
Mostly computer work, phone calls, some in person meetings.
I hope that my involvement contributes to better management of fish resources, a healthy ocean and fishing communities.
I have a M.Sc. in marine science, BS in biology.
Civics in high school, marine biology/field studies in university.
I’ve had many mentors all through school and career. Mentors are sounding boards, cheerleaders, offer thoughtful reflection, write letters of support, and helped me gain confidence in my own abilities. Mentors are great to have!
Find out what makes you tick, try lots of new things, travel when you can. Forget the search ‘to make money’ so much as the search for your passion and to put your unique gifts to work in the world!
Okay, if you must make money, I suggest studying computer science (i.e. programming), spatial analysis (GIS) skills as that is used in practically everything now.
Meditation/mindfulness, emotional intelligence, communication.
Study hard, don’t give up when the science gets tough!
July 30, 2019
The week of July 8, toxic algae blooms have forced the closure of many Mississippi beaches along the Gulf Coast. Beach goers can still enjoy the sun and the sand, but are strongly warned not to contact the water. Exposure can harm people and pets.
The bloom looks like bright green paint, coating the water in a thick, fluorescent green. The algae in the water can cause many adverse symptoms, including stomach cramps, nausea, and vomiting. Furthermore, the state agency warns those living along the coast not to eat seafood, as toxins from the algae can damage the nervous system through fish and other seafood from affected areas. Further down the coast, Louisiana has also been warned about the toxic algae bloom.
This algae bloom has been caused by floodwater due to heavy rainfall. The freshwater in the Mississippi river spilled over from massive rainfall into the gulf, spreading the algae to the saltwater. The high salinity, shallow water, and sunlight were perfect conditions for the algal bloom.
The algae is, unfortunately, harmful to wildlife that find their home along the gulf coast. The bloom shows no sign of subsiding, and is expecting to get worse with more rainfall coming soon.
Erin F. Fox, 2019
Source: NPR News
July 30, 2019
We interviewed Brian Mauer, a Water Systems Manager at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. His job is to maintain the life support systems for all the animals at The Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Water Systems Manager at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I design and maintain the systems that filter and distribute aquarium water and make it a healthy environment for the plants and animals on display.
I chose my career because I always loved the ocean growing up, and was always drawn to biology and science in school, so I combined the two in pursuing a career in marine science. Also, as a surfer I knew I wanted to always live by the coast, and I figured a job in marine science was a sure bet to do so! Once in grad school, studying biological oceanography, I got involved with testing and R&D of ballast water treatment systems, big water treatment systems that are installed on ships to sterilize the water in their ballast tanks and prevent the spread of invasive species. I was very interested in the water treatment systems themselves and how they might be fine-tuned, so when a job in the water systems field at MBA was posted, I applied and ended up being hired. Since then I’ve found the field to be both challenging and rewarding, with endless opportunity for learning.
Every day is different. Most days start at my desk, emailing with internal staff about equipment, water quality or animal health issues and ways to fix them and with outside contractors and vendors about developing new or upgraded exhibits. Most days involve a hands-on component, fixing equipment, installing sensors investigating issues with systems behind the scenes. And most days also include everyone’s favorite: meetings! Meetings with my staff, my boss and other work groups as we all work together to keep things running, improve them when possible, and build new, cool, engaging exhibits for our guests.
My work maintains a healthy environment (water) for the collection of animals living in our exhibits. This allows guests to experience the amazing animals and ecosystems that live hidden just below the ocean’s surface, and hopefully leave the aquarium wanting to do something to protect the ocean environment. Our livelihood as humans on land is largely dependent upon the ocean, it makes the oxygen we breathe, buffers climate change, feeds us and so on, so any positive impact on the ocean has a positive impact on humanity.
I studied general biology at UC San Diego, then earned a master’s in marine science (with focus in Biological Oceanography) from Moss Landing Marine Labs.
I always enjoyed biology and history classes. My favorite subjects in biology were Plant Biology and Animal Physiology.
My mentor was, and is, my first boss at the aquarium, Roger Phillips. Roger taught me just about everything I know in terms of how to design and maintain water systems in an aquarium environment. But more importantly, he taught me how to be a good boss and fair to my employees, how to stay calm when faced with a challenge, how to break a problem down to its core elements in trying to find a solution, and how to be always learning and staying passionate about the work we do.
Internships are great, even if they are unpaid. Entry level jobs are even better. Don’t chase the job with the highest salary when you’re young, just get as much experience, and diverse experience, as possible. Sometimes the expectation about a career path is not consistent with reality, so it is best to find out ASAP if your dream job really is what you think it is. Get some hands on experience in a field you’re interested in, then you can better decide if you should remain on the same career path, tweak it slightly, or do an about-face and go in a different direction entirely. These are all good results, as they are all steering you to a path that will eventually be enjoyable and rewarding.
I think there should be more hands-on components in school. I think people learn best and retain the most information when they use their hands or are actively involved in some way.
We often think of the sciences as discrete subjects, and focus on them in isolation. However, in reality, all of the sciences are intertwined, so soak up as much knowledge as possible from all the various scientific fields. You might think of yourself as a Biologist, for example, but as you actually become one, you will continually be surprised about just how much chemistry, physics and other sciences are involved with every new subject you learn. Having even a low level of understanding of subject matter that supports the core subject enables a much deeper understanding of that core subject. This deeper understanding will make learning in the future easier, and will also facilitate innovation and new ways of thinking about old problems.
July 10, 2019
A harmful algae bloom is when a species of algae grows out of control in freshwater or marine environments and harms surrounding humans and wildlife.
Harmful algae blooms (HABs) can occur in any conditions. Some prefer favorable wind and water conditions, while others prefer choppy waters and high winds. The harmful algae blooms are caused by runoff. Rain and floods can lead to runoff from lawns or farmland, dumping nutrients such as Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Carbon into surrounding bodies of water. This leads to the overfeeding of the algae, which leads to the rapid expansion of the harmful blooms.
Contact with water containing HABs can lead to nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and other stomach problems. Furthermore, eating seafood from affected bodies of water can cause illness due to the transfer of toxins from the algae to the seafood to the consumer. Airborne toxins from the algae bloom can also trigger asthma attacks and other respiratory issues.
In addition to the dangers caused the harmful algae blooms, they lead to heavy economic costs as well. The dangerous effects of the HABs harm the seafood and tourism industries, due to beach closures and the multitude of inedible seafood.
With increasing ocean pollution, harmful algae blooms are also increasing in prominence. The toxic material in the ocean is what causes the algae to become toxic. HABs are yet another consequence of the high plastic content of the ocean.
Erin F. Fox, 2019