Summer is squarely upon us and getting out into some cool water is one of the few activities that is somewhat condoned as acceptable during this unprecedented quarantine. But, just like last summer, the news is already starting to report the hazards of swimming due to toxic algae blooms. I’m sure you have all heard about the algae blooms that have contaminated our lakes and streams. Last summer we even heard news of pets getting poisoned to death from swimming in contaminated water. I think that what a lot of people are not aware of is that the cause of these algae blooms is directly related to the infestation of zebra mussels.
For those new to the world of zebra mussels, they are an invasive species that have been working their way down from the Great Lakes. They grow in clumps and clog waterways and dams, wreaking havoc on municipal water treatment systems and power plants. The microscopic larvae attach to the bottom of boats and get transported along to contaminate other bodies of water. They are such voracious eaters of other algae species that they deplete the water of competitors of this toxic algae that then take over the body of water…and ruin our summer. While we won’t likely see a solution to this problem this summer, you should be happy to know that the problem is being addressed by a team of scientists here at ABI. Environmental Quality Operations (EQO) has taken some cancer biology techniques as a means to detect them while they are still just slime on the bottom of a boat and has been using this technique to monitor several lake systems around the country. I encourage you to listen to John Higley, the founder of EQO, as he talks about his work and offers a glimpse into his clever approach to eradicating zebra mussels in Episode 3 of our ‘Science in the Mall, Ya’ll’ podcast.
Stay safe and healthy!!