Cyanobacteria

Join us at the Seal House in Roger Williams Park every other Tuesday evening to learn how to collect water samples and test for cyanobacteria and other water quality indicators! 

What are cyanobacteria? Cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, are a type of single-celled organism found naturally in all water bodies. Though they are able to use sunlight to make their own food, cyanobacteria also need nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus in order to grow. In warm, nutrient-rich water, cyanobacteria can reproduce quickly and spread across the water’s surface, forming blooms. Whether a bloom is harmful to humans and animals depends on the type of cyanobacteria present. Some cyanobacteria can produce cyanotoxins, a powerful poison. They can also block the sunlight from the rest of the ecosystem and consume all the oxygen that other organisms in the water need to survive. Blooms are most common in the late summer and in places where fertilizers, septic tank overflows and animal manure introduce high levels of nutrients into the water.

How can I help? The Providence Stormwater Innovation Center participates in the Cyanobacteria Monitoring Collaborative by teaching community volunteers how to collect and report cyanobacteria data to state and federal agencies using bloomWatch, cyanoScope and fluorometer analysis.

Think you see a bloom? bloomWatch is a smartphone app that makes reporting your sighting easy. Just download the app and start taking pictures! bloomWatch teaches you what to look for and how to take good photos of blooms.

 

The cyanoScope project helps scientists and water resource managers learn more about where and when blooms occur and what types of cyanobacteria are present across the region. With the appropriate gear and training, cyanoScope participants collect water samples of possible blooms, view the samples under a microscope, take photos of cyanobacteria, and upload the photos and sighting details to the cyanoScope project on iNaturalist.org. The cyanoScope community then helps to identify the cyanobacteria present.

 

Every other Tuesday we meet as a group to collect samples from different locations around the ponds and analyze them for chlorophyll and phycocyanin concentrations.  This valuable data are useful as indicators of algae and cyanobacteria that is present in the ponds. 

If you would like to be involved as a local participatory scientist, please contact Ryan Kopp at rkopp@asri.org