Nuisance Cladophora algae blooms are a growing problem in the Great Lakes, creating large, slimy mats of green scum, clogging water entries, threatening drinking water quality, and causing bird deaths from avian botulism.
When ashore, rotting Cladophora become fertile environments for Escherichia coli, Clostridium botulinum and other bacteria, raising pathogen counts and prompting beach closures.
Cladophora blooms in the Great Lakes were last a major problem in the 1970s. Back then, the problem was too much phosphorous in the water. When phosphorous was reduced, Cladophora all but disappeared from the Great Lakes for 30 years.
Now, the blooms are back, this time likely due to the invasive zebra mussels. Last year, Cladophora washed up on the shore of Lake Ontario and created a black, stinky, tarry mess.
Jean-Francois Pombert, a biologist at the Illinois Institute of Technology, and his team are sequencing the nuclear genomes of these algae in an attempt to better understand their nutrient sources and other information to help communities stop the algal blooms.
Researchers have sequenced the nuclear genomes from marine algae to better circumscribe the causes behind oceanic harmful algal blooms. Pombert is hoping that the same can be done for Cladophora, a freshwater green alga from the class Ulvophyceae for which very little information is known at the genomic level.
DNA harvested from fresh Cladophora samples will be prepared into smaller fragments amenable for sequencing using molecular biology techniques. The resulting data will be puzzled back together and analyzed computationally. Pombert and his team will be using a new, fourth generation DNA sequencing technology at the prototype stage to assist in this undertaking.