Sabina Perkins

Sabina Perkins

Advisor: Dr. Jeff Schloss

Research Topic: Ecology and toxicity of deep-water layers of cyanobacteria

My master’s research focuses on the formation, persistence, and toxicity of deep-water layers of cyanobacteria in some of these clear-water lakes in New Hampshire and aims to answer an important part of the broader question of when do cyanobacteria blooms produce toxins. New Hampshire boasts some of the clearest, lowest nutrient lakes in the country.

In the summer, when these lakes stratify, the water clarity allows dense populations of cyanobacteria to thrive at the transition zone between the warm surface waters and deep, cold, nutrient-rich waters. These deep-water layers of cyanobacteria form at depths below recreational activities but occasionally rise through the water column and form surface accumulations or blooms. Very little is known about the ecology of these layers, and even less about their patterns of toxin production or if they even produce toxins at all. My research has implications for drinking water providers and fish hatcheries who often draw lake water from depth for their operations and could inadvertently be drawing water with high levels of toxins even when the surface of the lake looks clear.