Red Algal Citizen Science – A Search For Alabama’s Unknown Red Algal Biodiversity

Tufts of the freshwater red alga Paralemanea near the Easley Covered Bridge near Oneonta, Alabama. Photo Credit: Stacy Krueger-Hadfield

There is incredible biodiversity in the state of Alabama – including freshwater snails, mussels, fish, and turtles. However, much of our biodiversity remains enigmatic. One group of organisms we lack critical information about are freshwater red macroalgae. Though rarely truly red in color, they provide food and habitat for macroinvertebrates and may serve as indicators of good water quality. However, they are not included in current biodiversity surveys in Alabama. To better understand the ecological role and potential usefulness of these algae as bioindicators, we first need to figure out where to find them.

This is where Alabama Water Watch monitors come in! We are asking for your help in identifying potential freshwater red algal habitat by taking photos of your monitoring sites. The Krueger-Hadfield Lab will examine the photographs to assess whether they may provide good freshwater red habitat and to determine if they should be included in their surveys. In the future, they plan to provide training and supplies for interested AWW monitors to collect and send algal samples to the Krueger-Hadfield Lab at The University of Alabama at Birmingham.

A step-by-step video on how to submit your site photos to the Red Alga Citizen Science from the University of Birmingham’s Krueger-Hadfield Lab. Video Credit: Alabama Water Watch

How to submit your photo:

  1. Take a HORIZONTAL photo of your waterbody (this does not have to be your AWW monitoring site), from the middle of the waterbody of possible, or from the bank
  2. If riffles (areas of fast-moving water over rock or woody debris) are present, include them in your photo
  3. Go to the Red Algal Citizen Science Google Form
  4. Fill out your contact information, upload your photo(s), include GPS coordinates (when possible), add a site description, and submit!

FAQ’s:

Q: Do you have to be an AWW Volunteer Monitor to participate?

A: NO! Anyone can participate!

Q: What if I see something that looks like red algae at the waterbody?

A: Take a photo and submit that in the Red Algal Citizen Science Google Form at the same time as your site photo.

Q: Do I have to return the waterbody to take another photo at a later date? (i.e. next month, next year)

A: No, one photo is enough for now. The Krueger-Hadfield lab will get in touch with you if they are interested in a follow-up photo of your site.

If you’d like to learn more about freshwater red algae and the Red Algal Citizen Science Project at UAB, view the 3-1-2022 webinar recording, “Red Algal Citizen Science: A Search for Alabama’s Unknown Red Algal Biodiversity“.