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Toxic algae blooms are becoming a more frequent summer biological phenomenon in the Pacific Northwest’s freshwater lakes, ponds and slow flowing streams. Increasingly these algae blooms contain cyanobacteria, “blue-green algae” that can produce toxins capable of causing respiratory or gastrointestinal distress in humans and in extreme cases the death of small mammals. Additionally, algal blooms lower dissolved oxygen levels in surface water, leading to hypoxic conditions that can be deadly for aquatic organisms.
Understanding how toxic algae impacts wildlife, human health, and the factors that contribute to water quality degradation will be the focus of this course. Through field studies, seminar and laboratory investigation we will evaluate the effects of environmental and anthropogenically-sourced pollutants on aquatic organisms using cyanobacteria as our model. Students will engage in weekly seminars to discuss current research and regional issues that affect the water quality in surface and groundwater. Students will gather field water quality data over several weeks from local water bodies and analyze samples collected for identification of cyanobacteria species that commonly produce microcystins, a class of liver toxins that can accumulate in fish tissues. In the final week, students will give a presentation on a topic of their choice related to aquatic toxicology. Upon completion of the course, students will be awarded 4 upper-division undergraduate or graduate credits in environmental toxicology with lab.
Paula Cracknell is an Aquatic Resource Specialist for Thurston County where she investigates nutrient loading and invasive aquatic species in local lakes and rivers. She has worked on TMDL studies in Washington State, and helped develop programs in local waterbodies that reduce nonpoint and point source pollution into shellfish protection districts and drinking water sources. Paula earned a dual BA/BS degree from the Evergreen State College in 2013 with an emphasis on Environmental Science and Aquatic Ecology. In 2017 she completed her M.E.S. From the Evergreen State College. In her master’s thesis, Paula developed a GIS model that analyzed weather patterns and land use changes over a decade, and statistically investigated whether changes in land use type and weather patterns increased dissolved organic carbon loading into the Puget Sound from four major watersheds.
Credits per quarter
- Hybrid Online Learning - This offering delivers < 25% of its instruction online, rather than via face-to-face contact between you and your instructors.
Upper division science credit:
Upon completion of the course, students will be awarded 4 upper-division undergraduate or graduate credits in environmental toxicology with lab.
Class Size: 20
Scheduled for: Evening
Final schedule and room assignments:
Mon/Wed 6-10pm plus 2 Saturday field trips, specific dates TBD
Located in: Olympia