Revenge of the Algae

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:

Visible spectra of pond water over 3 days

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.

Fluorescence spectra (excitation wavelength of 405 nm) of pond water over 3 days. The spectra have been normalized by setting the height of the peak at 405 nm to 1.

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.

Attack of the Algae Part 2

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.

Fluorescence spectra (ex. 405 nm) of garden pond water following treatment of the pond with algaecide.
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Killing two problems with one spectrometer

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.

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Socially distant ugrad research?

If you happen to follow any PUI Chemistry professors on social media, you’ll know that one of the more depressing aspects of the pandemic has been its devastating effect on undergraduate research opportunities. Summer research programs have been canceled and – obviously – any projects started during the first half of the now-finished semester were squashed.

Or were they?

My research group – Bespoke Scientific Instrumentation Design (BSID) – is build around the premise that scientific instrumentation should be more broadly accessible. Typically, what we mean by accessible is open hardware and software designs that allow end-users to customize instrumentation to fit their research directives or to lower the price point of entry-level instrumentation to facilitate educational research opportunities. However, in these virus-stricken times, accessibility has taken on a new meaning.

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Making COVID stay away

Do a web search on 3D printing and COVID, and you’ll find endless examples of the 3D printing industry (both commercial and hobbyist) mobilizing to create personal protective equipment (PPE) in response to the severe shortages that many countries face. If you have any experience with 3D printing, helping out is as simple as downloading the design files (such as this one for face masks or this one for face shields), sending them to the printer, and waiting 3+ hours for the printer to do its job.(*)

Finished print of the US version of Prusa’s face shield.

So when Tim of Adirondack oral and maxillofacial surgery contacted Zak Robinson, my colleague over in the Physics department, and lamented his inability to secure PPE for his staff, Zak and I got to work. Both of us use 3D printing in our teaching and research activities at SUNY Brockport, and when the pandemic shut down the campus for the remainder of the semester, we each brought home our printers so we could carry on with our making.

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