During last year’s Berkshire BioBlitz we were lucky to have two phycologists, scientists who study algae, John Hall, from the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University in Pennsylvania and Karolina Fucikova from the University of Connecticut, because we held the 3rd annual Berkshire BioBlitz at Onota Lake.
We don’t think about algae often. They are usually small, we don’t usually see them without a microscope, but algae are very important plants. They are primary producers in aquatic ecosystems. Most algae are eukaryotic, an organism whose cells contain complex structures enclosed within membranes, and are photosynthetic organisms, this means they make energy from the sun. They are distinguished from the higher plants by a lack of true roots, stems or leaves. Many species are single-celled and microscopic (including phytoplankton and other microalgae) but many others are multicellular growing to large size like seaweeds such as kelp and Sargassum. And still yet, some are microscopic, and occur as symbionts in lichens and corals.
John sent me some of these photos he took through his microscope during bioblitz. Yup, these things are in our lake. How cool is that?
Here are some fun facts about algae:
Algae and Evolution: Algae…
- live almost everywhere on Earth
- are among the most ancient living organisms
- gave rise to all the plants you see and eat (even flowers)
- some are extremophiles, liking it either really hot, or really cold
Algae and People: Algae…
- produce half the oxygen in the air you breathe
- are used to make medicines, toothpaste and ice cream
- can become fuel for cars
Algae and Biodiversity: Algae…
- build coral reefs and kelp forests
- are food for fish and even some whales
- are every color of the rainbow!
For some interesting educational resources about algae click here.