Great news from one of my former summer research students; Jenna will be entering SUNY Upstate‘s medical program this fall.
Jenna was in my first crop of summer research students at SUNY Brockport; (check that link, she’s in one of the tie dye lab coats). She was actually a student at MCC participating in the CSTEP program designed to help students find enriching research opportunities.
It’s day three of the algae treatment of my pond. The data are not that encouraging if you were rooting for algaecide as a quick fix for my swampy green problem. Here are the results:
The absorption spectrum looks fairly consistent over the three days. We have had temperature fluctuations of about 10-15 degrees in addition to rain, so there are many variables that can impact subtle variations in the shape of the spectrum. The water has not altered from its turbid, green characteristics, and the spectra support the claim that little has changed in terms of algae content.
The fluorescence spectra are displayed slightly differently from the previous articles in that they have been normalized. Assuming that the excitation peak stays roughly the same regardless of conditions, normalizing the spectra allows for a better comparison of the peak at 690 nm. It looks like there was a big change between days 1 and 2; however there is little change, and possibly an increase, in the peak from day 2 to day 3.
The instructions on the algaecide bottle say to repeat the treatment every 3 days until the pond has cleared. I will do one more treatment of 15 mL and if I do not see any meaningful change in the water quality, I will bite the bullet and replace the water.
Yesterday I started an algae control protocol for my garden pond and decided to monitor the progress with spectroscopy. I’m simply measuring the absorbance and fluorescence (405 nm excitation) of the pond water using a Vernier Spectravis spectrophotometer. Here are the results, compared with yesterday’s spectra.
I’ve got two problems. First, my ornamental garden pond is filled with algae. In the past, I have simply emptied it out and refilled, but I’m tired of doing that, and I also suspect there are some tadpoles growing in the pond and I’d like to let them do their thing, if possible.
Second, COVID has shut down summer research at my school, and I’m in need of a science project to keep my mind in the game. Since I work mostly with instrumentation design, I brought much of my lab home with me during the transition to on-line learning this semester. One of the instruments I brought back was a Vernier Labquest with the SpectroVis Plus spectrophotometer/fluorimeter.
With most of New York having recently entered Phase II of our return to normal – whatever normal will look like – my wife and I have been spending our stimulus checks at the local garden supply store. One of their products is an algaecide that “works fast”. That got me thinking; I don’t know “fast” means in the algaecide’s promotional language, but I need to clean up this pond and I can use the spectrometer to help me measure how fast is fast.
Science educators have been grappling with the challenges of remote instruction long before the pandemic. The virus has simply lowered the activation barrier to implementation. The chemistry education community has yet to adopt a remote alternative to time and resource intensive laboratory instruction, and the result of this nonconcurrence is the messiness, fear and uncertainty you witness today.
There are plenty of alternatives to face-to-face laboratory instruction: virtual laboratory simulations; videos of faculty performing experiments; kits where students can perform experiments at home. These solutions may have worked adequately this past semester, given that those of us who had a week to transition to on-line formats were considered “fortunate”, but they are not long-term solutions. The reason being: we don’t really know what problem we are trying to solve.