Steven Wilhelm, microbiology professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, is leading an effort to find bacteria to consume harmful algal toxins and clean up fresh water by testing the algae on Sodus Bay.
Wilhelm has been awarded $183,000 for the first year of an anticipated four-year,$704,000 project through NOAA’s Prevention, Control, and Mitigation of Harmful Algal Blooms Program. He will collaborate with Gregory Boyer from the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry on the project.
The research on Sodus Bay could lead to an instrument, called a biofilter, that could break down harmful algal toxins in the Great Lakes into harmless byproducts.
Wilhelm and his research team are working to clean up the toxins and restore water resources with a biofilter, containing a toxin-eating bacterium. The team will begin their research by isolating a number of bacteria which consume the toxin. They will decide which bacterium is the most feasible for the biofilter by determining consumption rates and considering the byproducts that exist after consumption. Then, the team will identify the physical infrastructure required for the biofilter.
The work is expected to start on Sodus Bay in the Spring of 2012.