Biology students help restore pond

April 19, 2013

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UW-Platteville biology students

Gooseberry Pond, located on a farm between Belmont and Darlington, Wis., has served as a watering hole for cattle for 60 years. But when the Kliebenstein family, who own the farm, decided to convert the land into the Gooseberry Pond Nature Preserve, the pond posed a problem.

“Because of the excess of nutrients in the water from the cattle, there was an overgrowth of nuisance vegetation,” said Rebecca Doyle-Morin, a professor of biology at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. For the past two years Doyle-Morin, along with students from various biology classes, has been studying the pond. “We’re trying to figure out areduce excess vegetation growth using natural means.”

Students need to understand the broader effects of any treatment on the pond and its vegetation before implementing it. “We want to reduce the nuisance algae, which can toxic,” said Doyle-Morin. “But we also don’t want to negatively affect the good algae.”

Reese Hussey, a biology major from Cottage Grove, Wis., and one of the students working on the study with Doyle-Morin, said that hydrogen peroxide has proven the best treatment.  “Last year, students tried barley straw, which produced hydrogen peroxide as a by-product,” he said.  “The hydrogen peroxide worked really well.  It breaks down into just hydrogen and water, so it’s completely natural.  This year we’re testing how it inhibits the growth of the bad algae without hurting the other photosynthetic organisms.”

To make sure that the hydrogen peroxide treatment does away with the nuisance algae, but maintains beneficial organisms, Doyle-Morin has enlisted the help of students in both her Fundamentals of Biological Investigation class and her Invertebrate Zology class. The FBI students will focus on analyzing the impact of hydrogen peroxide on the beneficial algae in the pond, while the Invertebrates course will focus on the effect of the beneficial invertebrates.

Students have worked with limited scientific literature about the use of hydrogen peroxide to control algal growth in designing their own original experiments. They collect samples, conduct experiments, and analyze results themselves, and will write up their conclusions at the end of the study for possible publication.

“There’s a place for us to contribute to the study of algal growth,” said Doyle-Morin. “This study has potential to make an impact on the scientific community beyond campus.”

The study is part of UW-Platteville’s Pioneer Academic Center for Community Engagement.

“PACCE is a great opportunity,” said Doyle-Morin. “It puts students into a real-world scenario, working with the people their work will affect, which gives the project an applied purpose beyond a grade. It’s more meaningful.”

“It’s cool that the whole class is working together on one project,” said Hussey.  “I’m going to work for a contractual research organization, so this kind of research will be my life.”

Contact: Rebecca Doyle-Morin, professor of biology, doylemorinr@uwplatt.edu; Reese Hussey, biology major, husseyr@uwplatt.edu

Written by: Jacob Reecher, UW-Platteville University Information and Communications, (608) 342-1194, reecherj@uwplatt.edu

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