Toxic algae blooms are a common summer phenomenon in waterbodies throughout the Pacific Northwest that have increased in intensity and duration in recent years. Algal blooms often contain cyanobacteria capable of producing toxins that can lead to respiratory or gastrointestinal distress in humans and other mammals, including death in extreme cases. Additionally, algal blooms lower dissolved oxygen levels in surface water, leading to hypoxic conditions that can be deadly for aquatic organisms. This course examines the role of pollutants on aquatic ecosystems, using cyanobacteria as our model to study toxicology in fresh and saltwater systems.
We will explore course material through lecture, remote laboratory investigation, and seminars to discuss current research and regional issues that affect water quality and transport of toxins throughout aquatic systems. Students will learn how monitoring and water sampling can help to identify an issue in an aquatic system and the steps taken towards solving the issue. We will analyze water quality data in a remote computer laboratory to assess conditions for the growth of microcystins, a class of liver toxins that can accumulate in vertebrates.
Upon completion of the course, students will be awarded 4 graduate credits or 4 upper-division undergraduate credits in environmental toxicology with lab. Undergraduate students should come prepared to complete graduate level work.
Our work will be conducted remotely. The faculty will offer alternative assignments if conditions or illness prevent students from accessing our synchronous (scheduled) meetings. Students will need to have access to a computer with Excel to complete needed assignments.