Faculty Mentor

Camille McNeely

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 11-19-2020


Chemistry and Biochemistry


The purpose of this study is to analyze the concentration of microcystins from cyanobacteria along with factors that increase the likelihood of microcystins found in water systems at the Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge (TNWR) near Cheney, Washington. Cyanobacteria are oxygen-producing bacteria that use sunlight as an energy source to convert CO2 into biomass. This bacterium has been around for around 3 billion years. However, in recent years, cyanobacteria have been a major issue in drinking water and aquatic ecosystems due to eutrophication, rising CO2 levels, and global warming (Huisman et al). Due to anthropogenic sources such as agricultural run-off and discharge from industries and wastewater treatment facilities, cyanobacteria have access to higher concentrations of phosphorous, nitrogen, and ammonium, allowing them to produce toxins and release them into the water. Depending on the nutrients available and the type of cyanobacteria, they can release different types of toxins that have diverse health effects on animals (including humans) such as organ damage, respiratory failure, skin irritation and fever (Huisman et al.). TNWR has been observed in the past to have nutrient over-enrichment (eutrophication). This study has multiple hypothesis; (1) Planktothrix and Mircocystis will be the most potentially common toxic cyanobacteria taxa found, (2) at least some wetlands will contain measurable concentrations of microcystin, (3) cyanobacteria will be most abundant under high nitrogen conditions, and (4) cyanobacteria abundance will be positively correlated with indicators of eutrophication such as high pH, highly variable DO, and high chlorophyll concentrations. Samples will be collected from nine wetlands around TNWR throughout three summer months. Various nutrient concentrations such as phosphorus and ammonium will be analyzed from water samples through an Alpkem 3 flow analyzer. Each analysis of a specific nutrient will be compared to five different standards of concentration of the nutrient. Chlorophyll within a sample is used as an indicator of the abundance of blue-green algae and will be analyzed through a Turner Trilogy fluorometer. Detection of phycocyanin within the samples will be from adding a potassium phosphate buffer in each sample and running the samples through spectrophotometry calibrated between 615nm and 652nm. An ELISA-based test will be used to find concentrations of microcystins in each sample. The expected outcome is to find evidence of microcystin toxins in the various bodies of water around Turnbull. Depending on the concentrations of toxins in the water will help us determine whether or not it is safe for people’s pets to drink from the water.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.