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If you are looking for project consider the following:

  • How much time do I have? (hours, days, weeks, months)
  • What is the goal of the project?

Hours to work on your project?

Short duration projects are ones where you will need lots of culture at the start, and will use the culture up as part of the project.   Lots of algae torture (do not worry, they do not scream).

  • Bleach the algae!  Determine how much bleach (sodium hypochlorite) it takes to remove the color from algae.  Visually awesome project with results that take just a few minutes.
  • Chemical Killing:  Like the bleach project, there are many chemicals that can kill algae.  Find the LD-50 or lethal dose for half to die (50%).
  • Heat kill the algae.  Heat the algae to find their lethal temperature range. 
  • Measuring photosynthesisIf you have an oxygen meter or are brave enough to use wet chemistry, you can for sure measure photosynthesis.  If you are using color to measure O2 production, be sure to get a larger organism, like spirulina then filter out the algae so that the color of the algae does not interfere with your colorometric readings!  Also you can measure photosynthesis by looking at changes in pH. Use Chlorella for that as it has only a small amount of carbon buffer in the water (fresh water media).  

Algae cultures are found here.  Also consider a secchi stick to measure optical density (a method for quantifying the biomass in the water)



Days to work on your project?

The theme for many of these is to observe a quantifiable change over time.

  • Measuring growth rates:  This is a little bit more of a challenging project, but great for high-school on up.  Grab your spectrophotometer, set it at 750nM and measure from 2-10 times per day.  Have an undergrad lab technician that is looking to earn browny points? have them measure in the light and dark every hour for a full 24 hour cycle.  The data will look awesome with growth in the day and loss at night, besides, they will remember that project for the rest of their lives!!!    Use our secchi stick to measure optical density if you don't have a spectrophotometer. 
  • ExperimentsColor, Light, Toxicity, ....  grab a bunch of flasks (keep your replicates at LEAST 3, preferably 7) and expose them to different treatments.  Measure the optical density (secchi stick) and plot over time.
  • Pigment extractions:  Takes a couple days.  Day-1 harvest and dry algae.  Day-2 extract pigments.  They all have green pigments extractable with acetone (chlorophylls, and carotenoids).  Some (spirulina) have a water soluble pigment called phycocyanin (read ok for little kids!).  It is bright blue and fluoresces blood red!!!  We will have to make a youtube video on this, it is really cool. 


Weeks to work on your project?

  • Demonstrating Batch Cultures:  Here you can describe a population of organisms from LAG, EXPONENTIAL GROWTH, STATIONARY PHASE, and DECLINE.  This is a great analogy for human populations, or other systems in nature. 
  • Controlled growth experiments:  Actual experiments.  Check our page on the scientific method for suggestions on experimentation.  
  • Stressing the Algae:  Just like exams and traffic can stress humans, algae can get stressed.  Just like humans who adapt to the stress by studying or taking the train, algae adapt by changing their pigments.  Here are some examples of experiments involving stress:
    1. Green to Red pigmentation in Haematococcus and Dunailella salina by stressing them with high light and salt.  This is a really awesome experiment.