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Blue-Green Algae

Find out about these amazing little green photosynthetic factories

lecture-series-logo.pngThursday, March 3, 2016: "Blue-Green Algae: The Good, The Bad, and The Deadly"

Speakers; ANNALIESE FRANZ, PhD, Associate Professor of Chemistry and
BOB POPPENGA, DVM, PhD, Professor of Veterinary Toxicology.
Venue:  DMG Mori Seiki, 3805 Faraday Ave.Davis (Off east Second Street: see MAP

Why should we be interested in these algae? For many important reasons one of which is that this year's toxic algal bloom spreading off California's Pacific coast could be the largest one scientists have ever seen. Animal rescue centers along the coast are seeing an unusual increase in sea lion, dolphin and pelican deaths.
Microscopic algae (microalgae) are amazing little green photosynthetic factories that can produce a type of oil that can be converted to biodiesel fuel.  Dr. Franz's research uses several approaches to improve biofuel production from algae, and also investigates how these microalgae can be grown using wastewater as a source of nutrients so that the process is helping to purify the water at the same time as it is producing oil to be converted to biodiesel. This research also highlights the great teamwork that can exist between chemists, biologists and engineers.  

On the flip side, many microalgae species produce potent toxins that can harm humans and animals.  The toxins are produced by algae following rapid growth in a body of water.  The accumulation of millions of microscopic algal cells in water can be seen as a bluish-green scum on or near the water surface.  These are called algal “blooms”.  Toxic blooms occur in water impacted by environmental nutrient loading, primarily fertilizer run-off.  Exposure of people and animals to these blooms can cause rapid onset of illness and death.  Dr. Poppenga's laboratory tests animal and water samples for the most common algal toxins and helps water agencies identify problems before harm occurs.   
Associate Professor of Chemistry
AnnalieseFranz.pngDr. Annaliese Franz received her B.S. degree in Chemistry from Trinity University in San Antonio, TX, where she first became involved in Chemistry research, while also playing soccer, running with the track team, and playing violin in the symphony. Annaliese received her Ph.D. in Chemistry from UC Irvine in 2002, and moved to Harvard University where she was an NIH postdoctoral fellow. In 2007, Annaliese started as an Assistant Professor in the Chemistry Department at UC Davis, and was promoted to Associate Professor in 2013. She has received several awards, including a prestigous NSF CAREER award and the American Chemical Society WCC Rising Star Award, the Outstanding Mentor Award from the Consortium for Women & Research at UC Davis.  She is an author of more than 40 papers and one book chapter.  She has served as a research adviser/mentor for a total of 21 PhD students, 34 undergraduate student researchers, and 5 high school scholars. Dr. Franz is passionate about education and mentoring students in many programs on campus. She also enjoys traveling, gardening, cycling, and jogging/hiking with her dogs.
Professor of Veterinary Toxicology
BobPoppenga.pngDr. Robert Poppenga is Professor of Clinical Veterinary Toxicology and Section Head, Toxicology Laboratory at the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory (CAHFS), School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California at Davis.  An Illinois native, he received his veterinary and PhD degrees from the University of Illinois at Urbana.  He has over 25 years of experience as a diagnostic veterinary toxicologist including previous positions at schools of veterinary medicine at Michigan State University and the University of Pennsylvania.  The Toxicology Laboratory at CAHFS is one of the busiest of its kind in the world and offers comprehensive diagnostic toxicology testing.  His research interests include diagnostic veterinary toxicology, wildlife toxicology, and development of biomarkers for chemical exposure.  He teaches veterinary toxicology to veterinary students at the School of Veterinary Medicine and advises Residents in diagnostic veterinary toxicology at CAHFS.
For your interest:

A.  Approximately how many species of algae are found on earth?

  1. 3,000
  2. 30,000
  3. 300,000
  4. 3,000,000

B. Algae are considered to be:

  1. Plants
  2. Animals
  3. Neither

C. HAB is an acronym for:

  1. Harmful algal blooms
  2. Helpful algal biomass
  3. Holistic alternative biosynthesis


A. 2         

B. 3 (blue-green algae are classified in their own phylum and are more accurately called Cyanobacteria because although they can photosynthesize, they are single-celled organisms with no nucleus.)       

C. 1


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