What are algae?
Single or multi-cell eukaryotic organisms which can produce food using photosynthesis
- Being eukaryotic (having a nucleus) separates them from bacteria
- Using photosynthesis separates them from animals and fungi
They range in size from the microscopic to the macroscopic (e.g., seaweeds)
They lack structures native to plants (leaves, stems, etc.)
- This lack of structures separates them from plants, though they are related
Most algae are so small that you cannot see them with a microscope. However, often algae form colonies composed of millions of individuals and you can see them with your own eyes without a microscope. Algae can grow in many places such as lakes, ponds, swimming pools, or even sidewalks!
Why use algae for biofuels?
Many algae naturally produce and store lipids which can be extracted and used as fuel. Algae can be grown using much less water than conventional crops, with much less fertilizer and chemicals required, and produce more oil per area than almost any plant. They also are not a major food source.
The process for growing algae and harvesting their oil content has been established by scientists, and now it only needs to be perfected. While most studies of algae have occurred with lab-grown strains, most wild algae have been ignored mainly due to the time required to collect and analyze them. Most researchers do no have the time or capacity to search an entire geographic area and collect samples for analysis. There are hundreds of species around the St. Louis area alone. Each species has the potential to produce just the right amount and kind of oil to make it useful, but its potential will remain unknown until it can be isolated and analyzed. With your help, analyzing wild algae species for their potential to produce biofuels can become a possibility, and it will bring the promise of an alternative source of energy much closer to reality.
- Still, green, scummy water is the best for collecting.
- Look at the map of locations from where other citizen scientists have collected. Find somewhere new, be creative!
- Please be sure it’s a location from which you can collect safely.
- Use the dropper to suck up the sample or scoop it up directly with the collecting tube.
- To collect the algae from a hard surface, use the wooden stick to scrape it into the collecting tube.