Microalgae account for most of the photosynthetic biomass and production in aquatic systems. Currently coastal waters worldwide are experiencing an increase in the occurrence, distribution, and severity of harmful algal blooms (HAB). Blooms of toxic algal species (e.g. red tides) can cause direct mortality of fish and shellfish. Other organisms, including humans, can be indirectly affected through the consumption of contaminated seafood. Large blooms of non-toxic species can also have negative impacts on aquatic habitats by shading benthic plants and by interfering with the activities of other organisms. Furthermore, if these algal blooms are not grazed or diluted, their decomposition can deplete the dissolved oxygen in the water, causing the mortality of plants and animals.
We will study the ecology of harmful algal species; the environmental factors controlling the species diversity, abundance, and productivity of aquatic algae; and the possible role of human activities in causing the increase of HAB. In addition, we will examine the efforts of scientists and government agencies to monitor HAB, and to control their impact on fisheries and public health. The material will be presented through lectures, and seminar discussion of books and scientific articles. In labs we will learn methods in microscopy and seawater analysis as well as field work in local estuaries and lakes. Students will conduct two research projects: one will be a review of scientific literature on a specific HAB topic and the second will study the plankton and water quality of a local marine or freshwater habitat. Credits will be awarded in marine ecology and oceanography.
One year of college-level biology.
Course Reference Numbers
environmental studies, ecology, and marine science.