Year Established: 2012 Start Date: 2012-03-01 End Date: 2013-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $30,000 Total Non-Federal Funds: $69,864
Principal Investigators: Bruce Jackson
Abstract: This project utilizes robotic submersible technology to characterize submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) blooms in the Charles River (MA) at the organismal, molecular and atomic levels. Data from this research will be useful in devising methodologies to control SAV contamination in the waterways of Massachusetts and other regions of the Northeast. Our specific aims are to: 1. Utilize a prototype submersible “Robotic Underwater Sampling and Surveillance (RUSS)” vehicle to measure the levels of SAV, specifically the blue green algae, Microcystis, along the 80-mile (129 km) stretch of the Charles River of Massachusetts. 2. Employ RUSS’s specialized multibeam sonar transducer system to measure and define the acoustic characteristics of SAV and map SAV blooms in the Charles River during the months of May-June, 2012. 3. Utilize RUSS’s water and riverbed collection capabilities to measure the relative phosphorus and microstatin levels in water and riverbed soil in regions of heavy, moderate and light SAV (May-June, 2012). 4. To determine if bloom-specific and/or region-specific polymorphisms occur in the hyper-variable regions (HVr) I and II of Microcystis mitochondrial (mt) DNA. If so, we will create a mtDNA profile database of Microcystis collected from the Charles River by RUSS for our use and for other researchers conducting similar studies. 5. Excite 25 nontraditional high school (HS) scholars for environmental science and submersible technology through our long-time educational partner, “Eco-Academy” by their direct involvement in the research proposed in this project. Analysis of SAV, water and riverbed soil samples from the Charles River will be conducted in the state-of-the-art Biotechnology and Environmental Science laboratories at MassBay. These multi-million dollar research facilities are considered “the most sophisticated and well-equipped undergraduate research laboratories in the United States.” This project will reveal identifying characteristics of SAV blooms at the macro- and molecular levels. Information from this project will enhance our understanding of the persistence of SAV and elucidate more effective processes for its control. Our submersible technology and data will be useful to scientific studies of any other urban river of the Northeast. Educationally, the project develops a replicable model based on project-based learning, which engages scholars who are underrepresented in science with authentic and relevant research that stimulates their interest in environmental science careers. In addition, the proposed project has mechanisms to disseminate the technology, data and educational model to a national community of scientists and faculty. Lastly, the formative and summative assessment component of this proposal is exceedingly rigorous and was formulated based on that used successfully for the Biotechnology Program at MassBay over the past fifteen years.