Increasing Picochlorum oklahomense Growth: The Effects of Nitrogen and Phosphorous

Maci Capshew, Noelie Bircher, Bailey Black, Jillian Braggs


A decrease in the Earth’s amount of fossil fuels has created a necessity to find a new source of clean energy; this has led scientists to turn to biofuels which can be produced by high levels of algae growth. Nitrogen and phosphorous are two nutrients that are excel the rate of algae growth; however, an excess of these two nutrients can take away the dissolved oxygen in aquatic ecosystems, this is called eutrophication, and it affects the ecosystem in a negative way. While conducting our experiment to find a way to increase biofuels (in the form of algae), we hypothesized that adding nitrogen and phosphorous to a photobioreactor would produce the greatest rate of algae production. To test the effect of added nutrients on the growth rate of algae, we added nitrogen, phosphorous, and a combination of the two nutrients to photobioreactors and measured the growth using a hemocytometer and interpreted those results by using a hemocytometer calculator. Interpreting our data, we see that the photobioreactor with a combination of nitrogen and phosphorous produced the greatest rate of algae growth which supports our hypothesis. Continuing experimentation, we could focus on the different amounts of nitrogen and phosphorous that can be added to an aquatic ecosystem while still producing high levels of algae, and also staying within low levels of eutrophication so that biofuels are increasing and marine environments stay healthy. 

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