Diversity of Algae in a Desert Oasis

University of Colorado - Boulder
Aurora, Colorado
BiologyEcology
DOI: 10.18258/4661
$470
Raised
100%
Funded on 4/03/15
Successfully Funded
  • $470
    pledged
  • 100%
    funded
  • Funded
    on 4/03/15

About This Project

A network of underground aquifers provide a constant source of water to seeps within Ash Meadows in the heart of the Mojave Desert. These spring-fed aquatic habitats stand in stark contrast to the dry, desert conditions surrounding them. How unique is the algal flora of these isolated spring-fed seeps? We aim to understand the algal diversity of the aquatic habitats with Ash Meadows and the results of our study will provide valuable information for the future management of this unique system.

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What is the context of this research?

Ash Meadows contains over 23,000 acres of spring-fed seeps and associated wetlands located within the Mojave Desert National Preserve. The aquatic habitat within Ash Meadows is the largest remaining oasis within the Mojave Desert. This desert wetland ecosystem provides habitat for many unique and endemic plant and animal species, several which are listed as federally endangered, including the Devil's Hole Pupfish. In the past, this area has been subjected to the effects of human activities, altering hydrology and introducing non-native plants and animals. Recent management and restoration activities are working to restore Ash Meadows and protect the native flora and fauna, but algae communities have been overlooked during these efforts, despite their utility in ecological monitoring.

What is the significance of this project?

This work is critical for several reasons and will fill valuable research gaps. First, algae monitor aquatic systems 24/7 and can be used as effective, and less expensive, tools to monitor ecosystem health. We will survey the algae of the seeps and build statistical models comparing the more and less disturbed seeps within Ash Meadows. Second, only one published study has provide a list of algal species from the park, but only from one habitat, Devil's Hole. None of the species seen in Devil's Hole are endemic to the park, which contrasts the high levels of endemism found in plants and animals of the park. Third, most of the habitats in the park have not been examined for their algal diversity and this is an opportunity to categorize and describe this unobserved diversity.

What are the goals of the project?

We are interested in examining the algal communities within the Ash Meadows system. There are two main objectives for this project. The first objective is to determine the overall algal flora within Ash Meadows. We will generate a species checklist for all algal species found within the seeps and wetlands of Ash Meadows, and describe any new species we find. The second objective is to compare algal community composition among seeps. Variability in temperature, flow, and pH exists among the seeps and we will determining which factor or suite of factors has the greatest influence on structuring algal community composition. Results from this study will provide information for the continued management of this unique system, and determine effective restoration efforts have been.

Budget

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The funds raised for this project will pay for Jen and Evan to travel to Ash Meadows in order to collect samples. Any money raised above our goal will be used towards consumable laboratory supplies required to prepare the samples for analysis. Further, Jen and Evan would like to purchase a microscope for use in their home laboratory, so that they are not as reliant on using other peoples microscopes, which they have to commute to use. The modest microscope they plan to purchase will cost approximately $3000, but will be invaluable in pursuing the research goals presented for this project. We are grateful for any funding towards this goal, thank you!

Meet the Team

Jennifer Ress
Jennifer Ress
Evan W. Thomas
Evan W. Thomas

Team Bio

Jennifer Ress is adjunct faculty at Aims Community College and her research centers around freshwater algal ecology. She has examined algal community dynamics in a variety of aerial habitats (Great Smoky Mountains, Hawai'i, UP of Michigan) and aquatic habitats (Great Smoky Mountains, Colorado Rocky Mountains). She is also interested in the interactions between the algal communities and other organisms, such as invertebrates and fish, as well as the influence humans have on the algal communities of these systems. Jen earned her Ph.D. in Biological Sciences from the Bowling Green State University.


Evan Thomas is a Ph.D. Candidate at the University of Colorado Boulder. He completed a master's degree in Biological Sciences, studying algal communities in a lake and the effects of physical wave disturbance on them. Currently Evan researches a common, but overlooked diatom genus in North American streams and has described several new species based on their morphology (how they look), and is building a phylogeny (family tree) of them based on morphology and DNA sequences. He plans to synthesize the diversity, phylogeny, and ecological habitat preferences of these diatoms to better understand their relationship with water quality. He drives an old, little pickup.

Evan W. Thomas

Evan Thomas is a Ph.D. Candidate at the University of Colorado Boulder.
He completed a master's degree in Biological Sciences, studying algal
communities in a lake and the effects of physical wave disturbance on
them. Currently Evan researches a common, but overlooked diatom genus in North American streams and has described several new species based on their morphology (how they look), and is building a phylogeny (family
tree) of them based on morphology and DNA sequences. He plans to
synthesize the diversity, phylogeny, and ecological habitat preferences
of these diatoms to better understand their relationship with water
quality. He drives an old, little pickup.


Project Backers

  • 13Backers
  • 100%Funded
  • $470Total Donations
  • $36.15Average Donation
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