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Friday, July 9, 2021

What’s it all about…. Algae?


~Chinese children swim along the algae-filled coastline of Qingdao, in eastern China’s Shandong province on July 17, 2011. (STR – AFP/Getty Images)

So, last week I was captivated by a story out of China. Apparently for the fourth time in as many years, China has an algae problem. I read about the new and mysterious “green blob” of algae, but the pictures of it were truly stunning. The blob, it seems, has covered more than7400 square miles and has blanketed China’s east coast. The algae itself is not toxic, but depletes the water of oxygen, endangering marine life, fisheries and tourism.

Chinese coastal waters often contain high levels of nitrates caused by agricultural and industrail runoff, according to the New York Times. The buildup of nitrates often contributes to the growth of algea. Scientists, however, are still baffled as to why algae has spread so far and wide, so quickly.

But China is not the only place contending with slime of unknown origin. Welcome to Kivalina, Alaska, where they’ve got problems of their own in the form of an orange-colored substance leaving a sheen in the harbor and washing up on shore.Ā  After determining that the stuff isn’t petroleum-based, or man-made, the City Administrator in Kivalina has called in the big guns. An “algae expert” has been requested from the University of Alaska in Fairbanks to come investigate the situation.

~Orange algae (?) in Kivalina (photo by Mida Swan)

The only thing that mitigates the horror of yet another potentially lethal and unknown organism taking over our oceans, is the fact that it reveals to us that there is such a thing as an algae investigator, which has to be the nerdiest and most awesome job on the planet. I, for one, will sleep better tonight knowing that in the off chance I should ever have an algae emergency, that there is, in fact, someone to call.

 

Comments

comments

Comments
32 Responses to “What’s it all about…. Algae?”
  1. Waay Out West says:

    Dated yourself there a little bit didn’t you?

    G _ R _ O _ A _ N !

  2. Mag the Mick says:

    I just read that some sort of orange goo has now just been seen in Kivalina. Anyone else heard this?

    • @Mag

      Kyle Hopkins with ADN is talking about it on FB but I haven’t seen anything else about it. He has a discussion on FB asking what ppl think it is. Someone said that they thought it was way past it’s expiration date Tang from ANICA LOL

    • Pinwheel says:

      This report came onto the wider-spread media yesterday ?? (8/4/11). Regardless, what it is is more important than all the speculation we give it. I’m with AKM. Extremely reassuring that we do have an expert in-state. Reduces the cost of the investigation, etc.

      Remember, anyone can get to Kivalina in the summertime, if they (he/she) have an airplane, airboat, skiff (flatbottom).

      I am giving my best for an honest report.

      nem

  3. OT sorry but this is sooooooo exciting I am reposting it here after I put it up on the Open Thread too!!!!

    YES!!! YES!!! YES!!! YES!!! YES!!! YES!!! YES!!! YES!!!YES!!! YES!!! YES!!! YES!!!YES!!! YES!!! YES!!! YES!!!YES!!! YES!!! YES!!! YES!!!YES!!! YES!!! YES!!! YES!!!YES!!! YES!!! YES!!! YES!!!YES!!! YES!!! YES!!! YES!!!YES!!! YES!!! YES!!! YES!!!YES!!! YES!!! YES!!! YES!!!YES!!! YES!!! YES!!! YES!!!YES!!! YES!!! YES!!! YES!!!YES!!! YES!!! YES!!! YES!!!YES!!! YES!!! YES!!! YES!!!YES!!! YES!!! YES!!! YES!!!YES!!! YES!!! YES!!! YES!!!YES!!! YES!!! YES!!! YES!!!

    http://community.adn.com/?q=adn%2Fnode%2F157780

    Three rural newspapers sold to Alaska couple!!!!

    Quote:

    From Kyle Hopkins in Anchorage ā€“

    An Alaska couple has purchased three rural newspapers and two specialty publications from the Calista Corp., the company announced today.

    Calista previously announced it planned to shutter the Alaska Newspapers Inc. newspaper chain that serves communities across the state…..

    This is absolutely WONDERFUL!!!!!

  4. nDjinn says:

    I have seen it down stream from many landfills in New England when I was playing in envio sciences.

  5. tallimat says:

    creepy…

  6. leenie17 says:

    Living near Lake Ontario, I am all too familiar with algae blooms. Ontario Beach Park, which is only a few miles from my house, is adjacent to where the Genesee River empties into the lake. There’s a pier going 2,000 feet out into the lake at the end of which stands the old lighthouse.

    During the hot weather, the algae washes up into the corner between the shore and the pier, piles up on the sand and dies, leaving a disgusting, foul-smelling, slimy mess. Whenever that happens, the beach has to be closed to anyone with a strong enough constitution not to already be driven away by the repulsive smell. It’s one of the very few public beaches we have in the area so closings are a real problem.

    The city and the Army Corps of Engineers have been trying for a number of years to find some system of removing the algae so that the beach closings are minimized. There’s a new pumping system that seems to be more effective than any previously tried, and they’re testing it out this summer, with good results so far.

    Every summer, my choir puts on a concert in the park’s gazebo only a few dozen yards from where the shore meets the pier. A few years ago there was a very bad algae bloom the same night we performed. Taking a deep breath to sing was NOT a pleasant experience!

  7. bubbles says:

    we are doomed. doomed i say! ARRRRGH!

  8. slipstream says:

    News story on algae outbreaks in Britan:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/aug/05/britain-toxic-algal-scum

    “There have been 83 algal incidents so far this year ā€“ a month into the three-month algae season.”

    Okay, there’s my new vocabulary word for the day: algal.

    • leenie17 says:

      Too much fertilizer and too much heat (perhaps from climate change)…when will we learn to take better care of our world?

  9. Mo says:

    As I use a rainwater catchment system, algae are of interest. The consensus seems to be, avoid allowing light to penetrate your tanks, lest cyanobacteria develop. Dunno about red algae.

    Here’s the summary from Wikipedia:

    Some cyanobacteria produce toxins, called cyanotoxins. These include anatoxin-a, anatoxin-as, aplysiatoxin, cylindrospermopsin, domoic acid, microcystin LR, nodularin R (from Nodularia), or saxitoxin. Cyanobacteria reproduce explosively under certain conditions. This results in algal blooms, which can become harmful to other species if the cyanobacteria involved produce toxins.
    These toxins can be neurotoxins, hepatotoxins, cytotoxins, and endotoxins, and can be toxic and dangerous to humans as well as other animals and marine life in general. Several cases of human poisoning have been documented but a lack of knowledge prevents an accurate assessment of the risks.[25][26][27] Recent studies suggest that significant exposure to high levels of some species of cyanobacteria causes amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The Lake Mascoma ALS cluster [28] and Gulf War veteran’s cluster are two notable examples.[26][27][29]

  10. Zyxomma says:

    Here’s a “how stuff works” link about algae biofuel, also known as oilgae. There’s a lot of potential here, because the lipid (fat) profile of algae is quite high:

    http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/green-science/algae-biodiesel.htm

    My disgust with internal combustion engines stems from the polluting petrochemical crap that currently fuels them, not from the engineering. It’s why I’m only just starting to learn to drive at my advanced age.

  11. The only thing that mitigates the horror of yet another potentially lethal and unknown organism taking over our oceans, is the fact that it reveals to us that there is such a thing as an algae investigator, which has to be the nerdiest and most awesome job on the planet. I, for one, will sleep better tonight knowing that in the off chance I should ever have an algae emergency, that there is, in fact, someone to call.

    Oh my goodness That’s HILARIOUS!!! Hmm maybe he/she needs a superhero name?

    Capt. Algae?
    Algae Woman

  12. lisa says:

    The Guardian has an article today about algae in UK waterways.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/aug/05/britain-toxic-algal-scum
    There is quite a bit of info about the reason for the uptick in algae blooms and its effects on humans and wildlife. They are posting an eerie photo of a bald coot swimming through the algae.

    BTW, the bald coot is not my husband.

  13. laurie says:

    I seem to remember reports of large amounts algae being scooped up for the Olympics in Beijing. I does seem like smart people could come up with a good use for it.

  14. Elsie says:

    For the last few years, my husband has bought biofuel for our diesel pickup. He can only get it from one source in our entire region, so when he is in the neighborhood, he drops by for a tankful. The truck runs better and more quietly on the biofuel than it does on pure diesel. It’s good stuff, actually.

    He’s also commented several times said that using corn for the production of biofuel is simply too expensive, and another source must be found. Algae holds some hope here.

    When I saw this MF post, I thought that maybe the Chinese could harvest their vast amount of unwanted algae and turn it into fuel or biofuel!

    I remembered that Exxon was pouring research funds into algae research. So, for whatever good may come of that, here’s a link, among many, at http://www.exxonmobil.com/Corporate/energy_vehicle_algae.aspx

    • marlys says:

      Thank you Elsie.

    • UgaVic says:

      You are so right, there is research going on to find better sources for biofuel. Exxon is just one of the corporations putting money into this particular one.

      Hubby also was reading me not too long ago about research on algae for certain medical uses.

      Seems there are some promising things that could come from algae, let’s just hope it happens before it harms more than it adds!

    • beth says:

      Processing corn for biofuel is, yes, expensive, but more importantly: being genetically engineered specifically to use as a fuel, it’s unfit for human consumption — to include direct consumption or through animals consumed by humans; there is also the very real danger of it contaminating corn meant for human (and animal) consumption. To me, though, beyond all that, is the human aspect of using corn in a biofuel mix — in a world where so many are going hungry (and in some cases, literally starving to death) I have great trouble seeing anything ‘good’ about using it as such. Corn is a staple of many diets worldwide — every acre of corn planted for biofuel is one less acre planted for human (and their livestock’s) survival. My jaw painfully tightens just thinking about it. beth.

  15. thatcrowwoman says:

    Seems like we could find ways to turn that algae to fuel or fertilizer or food or energy or something useful, doesn’t it?

    Also.
    Too.

  16. thatcrowwoman says:

    “What’s it all about, Alfie?
    Is it just for the moment we live?
    What’s it all about when you sort it out, Alfie?
    Are we meant to take more than we give
    Or are we meant to be kind?
    And if only fools are kind, Alfie,
    Then I guess it’s wise to be cruel.”

    off for a lovely day with Littlebird šŸ™‚

    L’Shalom,
    thatcrowwoman

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