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Environmental Remediation & Algae

This page shows a past project. We are ar not currently working in this line of research.


This page is from our Chesapeake Algae Project (ChAP) funded by Statoil of Norway. This page was posted in 2010 and is best viewed in Windows Explorer

Increasing pollution and dwindling fossil fuel supplies represent two of humankind's greatest challenges. Not only are petroleum supplies rapidly being consumed, but the global, petrochemical-based economy causes a plethora of social, economic, and ecological problems. Right here in Virginia, the poor health of the Chesapeake Bay is a perennial subject and the commonwealth of Virginia as well as the states of Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware have devoted huge sums of money toward remediating excess nutrients in this waterway.

The Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) and The College of William & Mary (CWM) have launched a new, integrated effort toward solving the problems facing the Chesapeake Bay and simultaneously producing biomass which can be converted to fuels (W&M Story). The long-term goal is to utilize our discoveries in solving similar issues world-wide.

This exploratory Global Inquiry Group (eGIG), funded by a collaborative effort between the Reves Center for International Studies as well as the Roy R. Charles Center, was formed to discuss the potential role(s) of algae in the remediation of nutrients which pollute waterways such as the Chesapeake and also for their potential in producing biofuels (e.g., ethanol, biodiesel, butanol). A number of public discussions have helped to formulate the strategy and enforce interaction between various groups at VIMS and CWM.

--click here to see a larger version of the table below

A great many interrelated issues must be addressed when considering the potentials and drawbacks for using algae to accomplish two seemingly disparate tasks. For instance, will "nutrient trading" help offset fuel production costs? How much fuel can we produce? Can algal growth be used to replace the current system of paying farmers to allow fields to go fallow in order to limit excess nutrients reaching the bay?

We were fortunate enough to have a number of experts speak to our group over the last two semesters. Mr. Robin Church, a former refinery operations manager at Exxon, put our use of fossil fuels in perspective. Professor Robert Diaz spoke to us about dead zones and explained the huge scale of this global ecological problem; a recent paper in the prestigious journal Science outlined the exponential growth of the world's dead-zones.

--Click here to see a larger version of the map below (hypoxia is lack of oxygen)

Other notable speakers included Professor Lisa Colosi, whose recent paper in the journal Environmental Science and Technology has sparked worldwide debate about the benefits and costs of algae-derived biodiesel. Both U.S. News and World Report as well as the New York Times ran stories about the controversial conclusions presented. Closer to home, Mr. Brockenbrough of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality explained the costs, benefits and promises of nutrient trading in the mid-Atlantic region.


Public Presentations:


Members of this eGIG:


Core Participating Faculty: