The High School Aquatic Microbiology Camp met at Iowa Lakeside Laboratory from July 13th to the 18th. This year, 9 students (including 4 out-of-state students) and a K-12 science education resident participated in the Camp. The Camp instructors were Kerry Howard (University of Nevada, Reno) and Dr. Sylvia Lee (Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies).

Participants collected planktonic and benthic algal samples from West Lake Okoboji, Silver Lake, Silver Lake Fen, Freda Haffner Kettlehole, and the Little Sioux River. Participants learned to identify diatoms and several soft algal representatives, such as Chroococcus, to the genus level. Each participant compiled their own reference collection database of 20 genera. “The lab setting was amazing, state-of-the-art microscopes with rustic charm. The opportunity to collect specimens in the field and then observe them in the lab immediately was extraordinary,” commented Shan Mooney, the science education resident.

As a group project, the students chose to focus on the diatom genus Stephanodiscus. The students counted and measured the diameter of Stephanodiscus valves in Lake Minnewashta from five time points from 1816 to 2007 (estimated from a sediment core). While average valve diameter did not change, the students found a decline in the number of valves in more recent years. They developed hypotheses that may explain the decline, including natural fluctuations in population sizes and improvement of the sanitation system around the lake. Students also compared the relative abundance of Stephanodiscus in modern samples from Lake Minnewashta and the Little Sioux River. They found a greater abundance of Stephanodiscus in the Little Sioux River, which may be explained by differences in habitat (lake vs. river) or nutrient inputs (i.e., cattle grazing activity). Shan Mooney, the science education resident, worked on a separate project—developing a lesson on diatoms that aligns with state science standards and her school’s science curriculum. 'Participating in this Camp was fantastic for professional development. The students were very enthusiastic and the instructors very knowledgeable. I would highly recommend this experience to any educator interested in incorporating diatoms, freshwater algae, or field-based science in their curriculum.' Shan recently graduated with a B.A. in All-Science Teaching from the University of Northern Iowa, and will be teaching 8th grade science at Miller Middle School in Marshalltown, Iowa.

By the generous financial support of the Friends of Lakeside Lab, Camp participants only pay a small fee ($50 registration) to learn about aquatic microorganisms and to experience Lakeside Lab. The Camp has been offered each summer since 2012 and will be continued in 2015. All students who have taken a high school level biology class are encouraged to apply. Check the links on this page for more information. Teachers interested in participating as a science education resident should contact Kerry Howard ([email protected]).