Algal Biodiversity

Facing climate change and widespread habitat destruction, efforts aiming at a better understanding of biodiversity are especially timely. I have extensive experience with floristic surveys and recently found 65 new desmid records for Maine and one new green algal record for Connecticut, showing that our knowledge of algal diversity and distribution is incomplete even in New England. In continuation of my floristic work, my students and I are examining wetlands and reservoirs in MA, which commonly harbor rich algal diversity. Emily Norman’s summer project focused on two MA water bodies, Hawley Bog and Carver Pond, and compares her findings to historical algal records from the two localities.

Dominique Shepard’s current independent study investigates the diversity of soil algae isolated from southern NH. Dominique is assessing the algae morphologically using a light microscope, and complementing this approach with DNA barcoding.

From such studies, students learn widely applicable field techniques and microscopy skills, identification of common northeastern algae, and bioindicator-based water quality assessment. Additionally, my students help me compile an online resource about local algae using iNaturalist (www.inaturalist.org), to serve as an outreach tool, building on my project Freshwater Algae of New England and New York. We also contribute to the EPA’s citizen science project Cyanoscope, which focuses on monitoring cyanobacteria in reservoirs.

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