FGCU student takes fight against blue-green algae to Kenya

Reporter: Elizabeth Biro Writer: Matias Abril
Published: Updated:

Stinky and nasty blue-green algae prompts the question of how the toxins from the algae impact us. Algae is a concern all over the world, but how risky is it for us to be breathing it that nasty aroma?

Kenya and Fort Myers don’t exactly have a lot in common: Different time zone, different ways of life, different relationships with the water, but we do share a common enemy: blue green algae.

“It’s a pretty big problem,” said Trinity Allan, graduate research assistant in the Water School at Florida Gulf Coast University.

It’s a big problem on the Winam Gulf, Kenya’s portion of Lake Victoria.

“A lot of the people that live around the lake rely on the lake for both food resources such as like fishing, but also drinking water, so when they have algae problems, it really affects a lot of their lifestyle,” Allan said.

Allan spent two weeks on Lake Victoria, her focus: algae toxins, how they move through the air and how they impact us when we breath them in.

​”We know that it is aerosolized, but we don’t know how much of the toxin presence is really concerning of that,” Allan said.

Her method is placing filters at eye or mouth height around the boat as the team traversed Lake Victoria.

“So, I had six different filters around the boat: two at the bow two at the midship, and two at the stern, so I would place them there in the morning, and then take them off at the end of the day, so it was about eight hours per day, which is typical for about the amount of exposure that a fisherman would get during a day’s work,” Allan said.

Allan tested for the two main toxins on the lake, toxins also common here, and took water samples to note concentrations at different sites throughout the day.

Now that she’s home, Allan will analyze those filters to find out more about how aerosolized toxins absorb into our lungs and move from the water and into our bodies.

Blue green algae is a problem worldwide. If there’s freshwater, nutrients and sunshine, odds are it’s there, yet there is still so much we don’t know about how much it impacts us.

Through Allan’s research, the hope is that we’ll soon learn more.

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