Students Explore a Variety of Algae in Central Wisconsin
Photo by Harley Fredriksen.

Students Explore a Variety of Algae in Central Wisconsin

Through a straightforward lecture style and an engaging lab, students learned about one of the oldest species on the planet.

Phycology is a branch of biology that focuses on studies involving algae, cyanobacteria and blue-green algae.

These species are unique because they are primary producers in most aquatic environments. Their evolutionary tale is widespread.

“They came from nine different lineages” said Dr.Bob Bell of the biology department. “It’s not often you find organisms with such a diverse background.”

Students share Bell’s interest in algae’s evolutionary history.

“I like the evolutionary logic of the class,” said microbiology major Jon Mielke.

Mielke said he enjoyed how phycology coincided with his other classes.

Laura Reichaiet, biology and captive wildlife major, said that lecture makes things clear and she enjoys lab.

“Lab is the best part. I learn from doing,”Reichaiet said. “Plus, we get to draw pretty pictures.”

The lab portion of this class focuses on examining, identifying and illustrating what students find in their samples from several locations. Unlike labs for many classes, the students were enjoying themselves.

Deanna Torphy, biology major, was happy the class was able to venture to Jordan Lake.

“Collecting the plankton was fun. We got to throw a huge net out,” Torphy said. “Dr. Bell makes it fun, he’s really helpful.”

Outside of class, groups collaborated with Dr. Bell to collect samples from Adams, Waushara and Portage counties. At each stop, the groups measured temperature, oxygen concentration and general water quality parameters. They also collected samples.

With each sample, the goal is to classify all the algae in the sample and relate it to the type of environment the water provided.

People generally only think of algae when it becomes an issue, but seeing how they fit within an ecosystem and how much variety there is among the types is a change of perspective. A logical, practical approach to lecture combined with the hands-on, relaxed atmosphere of lab make this new outlook on algae a welcome change.

Harley Fredriksen

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