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Studying Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs). By Andre Selino

September 08, 2020
  • Andre Selino doing lab work
  • Andre Selino doing lab work
  • Andre Selino doing lab work
  • Andre Selino doing lab work

This past summer, I was given the opportunity to work beside Dr. Edwin Wong, a biology professor at Western Connecticut State University, studying Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) on Candlewood Lake.

Dr. Wong has been studying Harmful Algal Blooms on Candlewood Lake for several years and is responsible for reporting to the Candlewood Lake Authority when cyanotoxin levels exceed state and federal limits.

Tests and experiments put forth were combined to determine the environmental factors that influence and support harmful algae blooms, along with identifying which specific Cyanobacteria produce microcystin (cyanobacterial toxins).

For the Cyanobacteria Monitoring Program at WCSU, we would go to five town beaches on Candlewood Lake to collect water samples once per week at every beach. When samples arrived at the lab we would filtrate cyanobacteria. Once the filtration was complete we would run through DNA isolation to conduct PCR and run Gel Electrophoresis to see if the water samples containing cyanobacteria, tested positive for the gene which contain microcystin. Alongside with this process we also ran ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) tests to see if any of our samples had readings for toxicity which exceeded federal and state limits. Nitrate and Phosphate tests were also used to see how much of an impact nutrient loading has on the growth and abundance of these microscopic organisms.

We used our weekly results to inform any health departments on beach closures when microcystin levels exceeded federal and state limits. Research and lab work this summer consisted of the following tests, Phosphate tests, Nitrate tests, toxin tests (ELISA), Cyanobacterial filtration, DNA isolation, PCR and QPCR. As results and data are still being thoroughly examined, we hope to obtain results that will give us key insights into how these microbes behave and what we can do to protect recreational and aquatic ecosystems regarding HABs.

Being part of the 2020 Cyanobacterial Monitoring Program and working alongside, Dr. Wong has been a privilege and an experience that has helped me learn and grow as a human and as a scientist. Always jump on opportunities when they’re knocking at your door, because sometimes one opportunity can lead to more opportunities.