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Cyanobacteria Research at Southwest Virginia Governor's School

Parameters: Cyanobacteria

The Southwest Virginia Governor's School (SWVGS) in Pulaski, Virginia recently hosted an annual science fair for gifted high school students. Two SWVGS students, Brandi and Elliott, conducted independent research projects on cyanobacteria using a Cyclops Submersible Fluorometer from Turner Designs. Brandi, a senior, collected phycocyanin data at a recently rerouted stream, a salient part of the local ecosystem and neighborhood community. Brandi intends to make suggestions to Public Works on how to implement a phytoremediation system this summer if cyanobacteria levels are high during the winter months. By averaging multiple readings and running a one sample T-Test, she provided evidence that there was not a significant level of cyanobacteria in the stream above 6 ppb. She recommends that other researchers continue this work to monitor the stream this upcoming summer.

Elliott, a junior, built a small wire mesh box that held immobilized algae to test the efficacy of reducing cyanobacteria levels in animal watering systems while using a Phycocyanin Cyclops to monitor the blue green algae. He first immobilized a population of cyanobacteria using calcium chloride and sodium alginate, trapping the bacteria in porous spheres. He then added the immobilized bacteria to naturally occurring cyanobacteria and monitored chlorophyll levels over several days. Comparing his control with the prototype, Elliott discovered that the system with his prototype had a 1.27 ppm decrease in chlorophyll levels. This evidence suggests that the immobilized cyanobacteria successfully competed with naturally occurring cyanobacteria for available food resources. He hopes that this information could help animal owners decrease the potential for cyanotoxicity in animals in a natural way. The intraspecific competition is believed to have lowered the natural population levels.

Brandi won an honorable mention and Elliott won second place at the SWVGS Fair as well as second place at the Blue Ridge Highlands Regional Science Fair in Radford, VA. A special thanks to Turner Designs from their science teacher, Krista Stith, for giving the students a wonderful opportunity to gain hands-on STEM skills.

Author: Krista Stith Institution: Southwest Virginia Governor's School Pulaski, VA, USA

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