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Science Buddies: "Ask an Expert" • Reducing Salt's Harmful Influence on Algae
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Reducing Salt's Harmful Influence on Algae

Posted: Tue Aug 02, 2022 10:19 am
by ayobacteria

I live in Utah, fairly close to the Great Salt Lake. The Great Salt Lake is drying up rapidly, causing the salt content to rise dramatically.

From the top of my head I know that salt can have a negative impact on the algae in the lake, which serves as a food resource for brine shrimp. So as the salt concentration increases, the brine shrimp population in the Great Salt Lake are threatened.

How exactly does a higher salt concentration negatively impact algae?

Also, I have access to a university metabolic engineering and analysis lab. Is there a way I could use the resources I have access to, to perform some research on this topic?

For example, I came across some research that was done at Penn State University and Tsinghua University, in which they found that bacteria can turn salt water into electricity and drinkable water. I think this research goes well with the aim of the lab I have access to, since the bacteria are consuming something unwanted and producing something valuable.

I have a general grasp of what I want to do, I just cannot seem to think of a specific way to do it.

Thank you so much in advance for anyone that took the time to read through this, and for any responses!!!

Re: Reducing Salt's Harmful Influence on Algae

Posted: Sun Aug 14, 2022 9:34 pm
by brandimiller610

Your ideas so far sound great and really focus on a pressing environmental issue.

I would be happy to help you brainstorm, but first I would like to know if you are wanting to focus on the impact of salt concentration on algal growth or if you are wanting to focus on bacteria and salt water. I can definitely think of some in vitro projects for both of these, but would like to know which route you'd like to take so I can advise better!

Could you also give the URLs for the papers from Penn State and Tsinghua University -- I am interested in seeing them and that will also allow me to help you better.


Re: Reducing Salt's Harmful Influence on Algae

Posted: Sun Aug 28, 2022 6:19 pm
by ayobacteria

Sorry for such a late response, I thought I posted this a while ago but I guess I didn't press the Submit button!

I think I want to focus more on bacteria and salt water, but any suggestions of in vitro projects I could do for either would be so appreciated!!!

Here is where I came across the Penn State and Tsinghua University study: https://www.nbcnews.com/id/wbna32558231

https://www.psu.edu/news/engineering/st ... tes-water/

Thank you so much!

Re: Reducing Salt's Harmful Influence on Algae

Posted: Sun Sep 11, 2022 9:10 am
by brandimiller610
Hi again,

I have done some pondering with this and so I apologize for the late response. Below I will simply be writing out my thoughts about your research interest, as I perceive it -- I really hope it can be of help!

As a microbiologist/bacteriologist, my first thoughts for starting your project are to do simple in vitro testing of the effects of salt water concentrations on bacterial cell viability and/or growth. You would want to determine the highest salt concentration that the cells can tolerate without resulting in cell death. I am sure this is heavily studied, but it is a good first step for the idea I will propose next. I do not specialize in engineering (or metabolic engineering) by any means, but I was thinking that you could genetically engineer (i.e. mutate or transform) the bacteria to either lack a certain gene or overexpress a gene. Then, you could determine how these engineered bacteria respond to salt concentration. Maybe instead of salt being bactericidal, which is generally the case, there are specific genes that promote bacterial growth. I am not sure of your timelines and the exact resources you have available, but the approaches I have suggested are strongly molecular biology-based.

My PhD dissertation is focused on probiotic bacteria, such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, which are known to produce lactic acid and other beneficial metabolites. We generally think of probiotics as being found in fermented foods and our gut, but they are actually ubiquitous and can be found practically anywhere. Naturally, I would be curious about probiotics and salt water growth as well. Maybe this is another avenue or option to explore.

I hope these ideas help!


Re: Reducing Salt's Harmful Influence on Algae

Posted: Mon Sep 12, 2022 7:28 pm
by ayobacteria
Thank you so much for your response!! Your ideas have given me just the start I needed!!

I'll continue to post on this forum if I have any further questions, but as of right now, I've become really fascinated about the health/medical area of this topic. I think that I could pair this with something like you mentioned about probiotics and it could be really interesting.

I'm still interested in using this type of research to help toward's the cause of the Great Salt Lake, but I think a new medical aspect is just as fascinating as I can think of many health issues that can be caused by high salt intake just off of the top of my head, maybe I'll do both!

Thank you so much!!!

Re: Reducing Salt's Harmful Influence on Algae

Posted: Thu Sep 15, 2022 6:56 am
by brandimiller610
I am glad to hear this! Regardless of if you choose to explore this topic from an environmental or biomedical stand point (or both), I believe it has very important and relevant implications. Please feel free to post any questions or discussion points on this forum, should they come up. I am excited to hear about this project and how you choose to approach it!