Isolating Microcystis from Harmful Algal Blooms in Western Lake Erie – UROP Symposium

Isolating Microcystis from Harmful Algal Blooms in Western Lake Erie

Ian Fiero

Research Mentor(s): Sara Rivera
Program: Engin
Authors: Ian Fiero, Sara R. Rivera, PhD, Gregory J. Dick, PhD


Microcystis is a cyanobacteria that is found all over the world, and is particularly abundant in the summer in Lake Erie’s Western Basin. This microorganism is dangerous due to its production of microcystin, a toxin shown to cause negative health effects, and even death in humans and animals. Due to nutrient loading and climate change, cyanobacterial harmful algal blooms(cHABs) in Lake Erie, largely dominated by Microcyctis, have grown into a larger threat in recent years. These cHABs can be damaging to the health of those who come into contact with microcystin, and harm the economy of the region. However, it can be difficult to judge the danger a cHAB poses, as different strains of Microcystis can produce different levels of toxicity, and some don’t produce any toxins at all. This is because they can produce differing amounts of microcystin, as well as more or less toxic congeners. In our lab, we are working to isolate strains of microcystis from the western basin of Lake Erie so that we can study them, and better understand how they work, and why they behave the way that they do. By isolating microcystis strains, we can study the genetic makeup of an individual strain. We can use this data to compare different strains, and decide whether or not a strain is capable of producing microcystin. This helps us to identify where and when toxic strains of microcystis occurred. This research can help to mitigate the effects of microcystis, and lead to a healthier ecosystem in Lake Erie, and across the world.

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