ZazaPittsburgh
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PLEASE HELP! Algae culture for science project died.

Postby ZazaPittsburgh » Thu Jan 09, 2020 2:38 pm

I have been growing Spirogyra algae and on the 2nd-3rd day I find it gray in all the containers with non organic, soluble, MiracleGro fertilizer and all the ones with organic MiracleGro fertilizer. I added one teaspoon of the non organic fertilizer to a third of a gallon and 2 teaspoons of organic fertilizer to a third of a gallon (all the water used was distilled). This is the solution of fertilizer and water that was recommended on the box for outdoor plants and was the only water that the algae was in. What would be the correct ratio of fertilizer solution to distilled water to replicate real farm runoffs? Why did it die?There were two lamps over the algae, they were LED bulbs and they were 500 lumens in brightness (which were positioned about 34 centimeters away). The temperature average in the box was 75 degrees Celsius- 80 degrees Celsius. In each of the 12 containers was 0.049 grams of algae. Each container was placed randomly and covered in plastic wrap. Thank you, this is very urgent and I would be very grateful for a quick response. Thank you!

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Re: PLEASE HELP! Algae culture for science project died.

Postby SciB » Fri Jan 10, 2020 3:23 pm

Welcome to Scibuddies. I will try to help.

Since you only used distilled water and MiracleGro, the cause of your algal death has to be either the deficiency of some nutrients that are not present in the fertilizer or some compound that is in the fertilizer that is toxic to the algae.

Where did you get the spirogyra? From Carolina Bio? https://www.carolina.com/algae/spirogyr ... =spirogyra

The Carolina Bio site says that the growth medium for spirogyra contains 'soil water' but they do not explain what that is. I did a search and found several sites: https://utex.org/products/soilwater-gr- ... 1742730330

https://srjcbiologybeckonsyou.fandom.co ... reen_Algae

My suggestion at this point would be to use pond water to grow the algae without adding MiracleGro. I suspect that the fertilizer may have altered the pH of the water and that is what killed the algae. You can test this by getting some pH test strips from an aquarium or garden supply store.

I hope this helps. Post again when you have more questions.

Sybee

ZazaPittsburgh
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Re: PLEASE HELP! Algae culture for science project died.

Postby ZazaPittsburgh » Sat Jan 11, 2020 12:57 pm

Thank you so much for responding so quickly, so my algae did my algae die because I only used fertilizer solution as the water for the algae therefore the pH levels were very high (and the algae was getting an excessive amount)? I got the Spirogyra from Fisher Scientific: https://www.fishersci.com/shop/products ... =spirogyra
Also I need to add fertilizer, my experiment is the testing the differences in the effect of non organic fertilizer vs. organic fertilizer on algae. I want to determine which one is better for agricultural areas to use that will affect the environment the least. Thank you, and do you need "soil water" to grow your own algae, this experiment will go on for 17 days, I saw that the recommendation on Carolina and on Fisher Scientific are to use a medium of soil water, is this needed? Thank you again.

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Re: PLEASE HELP! Algae culture for science project died.

Postby SciB » Sat Jan 11, 2020 1:30 pm

You are welcome! Happy to help.

Spirogyra grows naturally in ponds, so if there is a pond reasonably close to where you live, you could fill up some large containers with pond water to use for growing your algae. You could still test the effects of agricultural runoff by adding a small amount of MiracleGro to the pond water--just check the pH afterwards and adjust if necessary.

I don't know whether the algae were killed by a change in pH, but that is something you can check after you get some pH test strips. Just make up the growth solution as you did before by dissolving MiracleGro in distilled water and read the pH by comparing the color of the strip to the pH scale.

Alternatively, you could try making soil-water according to a recipe online. On the sites I checked, it involved simply adding clean garden soil with no chemicals or fertilizer used on it to water, letting the soil settle and heating the water to just under boiling: http://www.microbehunter.com/making-a-s ... ing-algae/

I haven't tried this experiment, so I can't say how it works from personal experience. Do some more reading about algae culture then try it and record what happens. You don't have to use Spirogyra. You can use Chlorella or any other algae that commonly grows in fresh water.

Post again when you have more questions and hopefully we can help you get some algae growing so that you can do the experiment.

Good luck!
Sybee

ZazaPittsburgh
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Re: PLEASE HELP! Algae culture for science project died.

Postby ZazaPittsburgh » Sun Jan 12, 2020 5:10 pm

Hi Sybee,
So I followed your advice and tested the pH levels of my water. My pH levels were 6.0 for the organic fertilizer, and 6.4-6.6 for the non organic fertilizer. From my research I believe that this means that the pH levels are too high for algae to grow, considering that the ideal pH levels for algae are 7.0-9.0, correct? As you said, I believe this is because of the excessive amount of fertilizer. Also according to my research, distilled water does not have any natural nutrients, therefore the algae may not have the right micronutrients considering that fertilizer does not always have the right amount or balance of micronutrients to macronutrients. Yet the algae in the control water without fertilizer in distilled water is growing very well, so I believe that the problem is mainly the amount of fertilizer. Does this seem correct? I now am going to use spring water, with some soil and then heated up (according to the very useful source you provided). But I will lower the ratio of fertilizer solution to soil water (much less fertilizer solution). Thank you so much again!!!!

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Re: PLEASE HELP! Algae culture for science project died.

Postby SciB » Tue Jan 14, 2020 7:05 pm

Hi ZaZa,
You are very welcome! I'm glad my information was helpful. I should have thought to ask you about the control without fertilizer as you said that algae is growing OK, which points the finger of blame at the fertilizer. The lower pH of the water containing fertilizer might affect the algae growth somewhat but i would not expect it to be totally killed in two days.

Do try making the soil-water additive and let me know how that works. You can try a mini-experiment by adding soil-water to one algae culture and just spring water to the other and see if there is a difference in the growth rate.

It would be really great if you could quantitate the algae growth by measuring the density of algae in the solution. This is one common way that scientists measure growth of organisms like bacteria and it could be used for algae too. Here's a good video that explains how to measure the optical density of a bacterial culture: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_5_tlot3rvs

What I am thinking is that you might be able to use an LED penlight to shine a light through a test tube containing your algae culture and use a smart phone app to measure light intensity. This set-up would not be as accurate as an expensive scientific instrument, but I think it would be a lot better than just estimating growth by eye. Here's some information on how to use a smartphone app to measure light intensity: https://www.scientificamerican.com/arti ... -with-lux/

Scibuddies archive also has a project for measuring light intensity using Google Science Journal's app: https://www.sciencebuddies.org/science- ... #procedure

Let me know what you think about these ideas and what questions you have. I think doing the light measurement would be a great addition to your project and make it more 'scientific'.

Cheers,
Sybee

ZazaPittsburgh
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Re: PLEASE HELP! Algae culture for science project died.

Postby ZazaPittsburgh » Sun Jan 19, 2020 12:37 am

Hi Sybee,
I think I have all the information and resources I need now, thank you so much for the valuable information. I will be sure to tell you how my experiment and project do in the science fair. Thank you again!!!

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Re: PLEASE HELP! Algae culture for science project died.

Postby SciB » Sun Jan 19, 2020 7:43 am

You are totally welcome, ZaZa!

But, please if you have ANY questions at all, post again. It is much better to ask a lot of questions than to make a mistake that can hurt your results. Science requires a lot of detail-oriented thinking and it is easy to overlook something. When I make an experiment plan, I go over it many times visualizing the steps, thinking about whether I have all the supplies and apparatus and making notes of anything I want to be sure not to forget.

If you aren't sure something will work then test it! That is what science is about--experiments. And usually you have to do some experiments before you actually do THE experiment.

Good luck!

Sybee

ZazaPittsburgh
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Re: PLEASE HELP! Algae culture for science project died.

Postby ZazaPittsburgh » Tue Feb 11, 2020 3:19 pm

Hello Sybee,
I am trying to figure out the ratio of fertilizer to water I should use for my algae, but unfortunately I cannot find on the internet or at the library sources that provide data about the concentration of fertilizer in water from farm run-offs. This seems to be quite a big problem seeing as I do not want to kill my algae again (I decided to not use/make soil water seeing as I do not have a pond nearby or know of a place where the soil is unaffected by fertilizer). I can not seem to figure out what the ratio should be, I am about to do a test experiment to try and calibrate the amount I should use, but I do not really have a good idea of the amount of fertilizer that should be used.

Thank you,
ZaZa

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Re: PLEASE HELP! Algae culture for science project died.

Postby SciB » Tue Feb 11, 2020 7:31 pm

Hi ZaZa,

Yep, that's a problem--but you are a creative scientist and will be able to figure out how to do the experiment. You are on the right track in doing a preliminary test to determine the amount of fertilizer to use based on its effect on an algae culture, without killing it.

The information you were looking for about the N, P, K concentrations in fertilizer runoff is probably in some published scientific paper, but finding it would take a lot of time, I think. What I am visualizing is a 'test plot' where you hammer together a wooden frame, say 4 feet by 4 feet, fill it with plain garden soil, and add the recommended amount of fertilizer. The frame would have to have a bottom and the sides could be 6 inches high to hold the dirt. Then you would have make a hole in one corner of the bottom and place the frame with soil and fertilizer at a slight angle so that water you added to the soil would run down and come out the hole where you would collect it in a pan.

This idea may sound a little crazy, and does involve some carpentry and tools and wood, etc., but I think it might give you the answer you need. The 'runoff' from your artificial plot could be tested with a soil-test kit that gives you a reading for N, P and K so you would know how much is in it compared to pure water.

If you don't want to go to all the trouble of building a test plot, you could just take the recommended amount of fertilizer and make a guess as to how much would leach out into runoff--maybe 1%. How much of this would actually get into a pond or lake where it would be considerably diluted, i don't know, but I would think that diluting the fertilizer 100-fold would be a good starting point.

Scientific research is made up of a million choices and decisions like this and making wise guesses is part of the art of science. It isn't all formulas and exact measurements.

Keep asking good questions like this and I will keep trying to help you do the experiment without killing all your algae.

Good luck!

Sybee

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Re: PLEASE HELP! Algae culture for science project died.

Postby ZazaPittsburgh » Wed Feb 12, 2020 2:01 pm

Thank you so much Sybee, but I seem to have forgotten to tell you that I ended up basing my experiment off of another experiment and using its resources to explain in my research paper why I used a certain amount of fertilizer. I am on a bit of a time crunch but thank you for this idea! I will probably integrate it into my project next year by expanding off of the project I am doing this year. Thank you again!

Zaza

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Re: PLEASE HELP! Algae culture for science project died.

Postby SciB » Wed Feb 12, 2020 3:39 pm

You're welcome ZaZa. I will be here to help with your next project.

Sybee

ZazaPittsburgh
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Re: PLEASE HELP! Algae culture for science project died.

Postby ZazaPittsburgh » Fri Mar 06, 2020 9:08 pm

Dear Sybee,

I finished my experiment but the results were not as expected. The nonorganic samples stayed the same in terms of growth and turned a light brown/green color. The organic samples turned a very dark green but grew, and the control grew the most with a healthy vibrant green color and a grass like look (typical Spirogyra) and was 10x heavier. I am still reasearching the reasons for this outcome since in many other reliable studies, it is shown that nonorganic fertilizer increases growth rapidly for algae. It has all the correct macronutrients and in large amounts. I am unsure about why these were the results, does it have to do with the amount of light I gave it (24/7 led lamps, and a temperature of 75-80 degrees F)? Therefore increasing the rate of photosynthesis? I also read about a phase of shock that algae can go into where it stops growing? Also the pH levels for the nonorganic and organic samples at the end of the experiment were both 8.4, and the pH levels for the control were 6.8. I am quite dissapointed with these results. I would be very grateful is you could point me in the right direction in terms of finding some resources and studies relating to this problem. Thank you so much!

ZaZa

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Re: PLEASE HELP! Algae culture for science project died.

Postby SciB » Sat Mar 07, 2020 11:08 am

Hi ZaZa,

I can't explain your results either. Like you, I have always thought that fertilizer runoff caused algae blooms. But you have to remember that there are many different kinds of algae and spirogyra may not respond the same way to fertilizer as other kinds. Also, fertilizers vary a lot in composition and in the contaminants they contain that could inhibit algae growth.

The amount of fertilizer in runoff water and the type of elements in it is something that would vary a lot too. Doing an experiment to simulate runoff is difficult because you don't know the right concentration of fertilizer to test.

Do some more reading about this and see if you can come up with some answers. And when you have more questions, just let us know.

Good luck!

Sybee

ZazaPittsburgh
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Re: PLEASE HELP! Algae culture for science project died.

Postby ZazaPittsburgh » Fri Mar 13, 2020 10:08 am

Dear Sybee,

I am sorry for the late response, thank you for all of these good thoughts to set me on the right track. I think I have an idea of what I am going to write. Apparently the science fair was canceled due to COVID-19, but I am still very eager to finish what I have started. Now I just want to find out the reasoning for my results and I want to put it all in a report, to expand my knowledge about this amazing topic. Thank you for everything!

ZaZa


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