UT News » Research

UT News

Categories

Search News

Archives

Resources

Research

UT scientist to discuss importance of rivers for Lake Erie fish Oct. 19

As concerns about algal blooms, fish deaths and invasive Asian carp spawning are under the microscope in Lake Erie tributaries, an aquatic ecologist at The University of Toledo is highlighting the value of healthy rivers for fish in the Great Lakes.

Dr. Christine Mayer, professor in the UT Department of Environmental Sciences, is specifically targeting the Maumee, Sandusky and Detroit rivers in her lecture titled “Swimming Upstream: The Importance of Western Lake Erie’s Rivers to Fish Populations.”

Mayer

The free, public event will take place Thursday, Oct. 19, at 7 p.m. at the UT Lake Erie Center, 6200 Bayshore Road in Oregon.

“The rivers and river mouths are a small area compared to the whole lake, but they hold some key habitats for fish, such as the type of environment required for reproduction,” Mayer said. “Some fish species, such as walleye, spawn both in the lake and in the rivers, but having river stocks helps increase the diversity of our ‘fish stock portfolio,’ just like your financial portfolio.”

While the river habitats are important to native fish, Mayer said there also is potential for newly invasive species, such as grass carp, to use rivers for spawning.

“Rivers are highly affected by human alteration of habitat and inputs from the land,” Mayer said. “It is important to try to envision what kinds of conservation or restoration are best suited for the three big rivers entering western Lake Erie to contribute the most benefit to Lake Erie fisheries. Each river has unique issues.”

Mayer’s talk is part of the UT Lake Erie Center’s Public Lecture Series.

UT researcher discovers first grass carp eggs in Maumee River

A researcher at The University of Toledo found the first proof of grass carp, a type of invasive Asian carp, spawning in the Maumee River.

Nicole King, aquatic ecology research technician at the UT Lake Erie Center, collected five grass carp eggs in mid-July just downstream of the I-80 bridge, approximately 11.2 river miles from Lake Erie.

Nicole King held a grass carp captured in early spring.

The U.S. Geological Survey used genetic testing to confirm that three of the eggs collected from the Maumee River are from grass carp. The other two eggs have been retained for possible future analysis.

“These fish have been known to be in the Maumee River area and known to ascend the river during high-flow events, so the fact that they spawn there is not surprising,” said Dr. Christine Mayer, UT professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences.

“While this finding does not indicate the number of grass carp in the Maumee River or Lake Erie, it does underscore the continued need to refine the understanding of where grass carp are currently found so that agencies can take on-the-ground actions,” the U.S. Geological Survey released in a statement.

King also is one of the researchers who found more than 7,000 grass carp eggs earlier this year in the Sandusky River, another tributary to Lake Erie.

A grass carp egg

Last month King participated in a two-day, multi-agency expedition led by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife targeting grass carp in the Sandusky River to assess the ability and best practices to capture grass carp. Crews collected a total of eight adult grass carp using electrofishing boats, gill nets and fyke nets. The action was in preparation for a large-scale, planned response in 2018.

In 2015 in the Sandusky River, UT graduate student Holly Embke was the first researcher to discover grass carp, a type of invasive Asian carp, spawning in a Great Lakes tributary.

“Grass carp feed on vegetation,” King said. “Wetlands are an important habitat for fish, birds, reptiles and amphibians. If these grass carp reach high enough numbers, they could potentially have some serious effects on these wetlands and be dangerous for wetland restoration.”

Although considered a species of Asian carp, wild adult grass carp pose significantly different risks to the Lake Erie ecosystem than bighead carp and silver carp, which are the two invasive Asian carp species of great concern in the Mississippi River basin. Both bighead carp and silver carp consume plankton, and if these species were to make their way into the Great Lakes basin, they would compete for the same source of food that ecologically and economically important native fish species need to survive. Silver carp are well-known for their jumping ability.

Grass carp pose a risk to waterfowl habitat and wetlands, but they do not eat plankton and are unlikely to compete directly with native fish. Grass carp do not jump and are primarily herbivorous.

“One of the goals of carrying out research on grass carp is to provide information about how other Asian carp species might behave if they ever arrive in the Great Lakes,” Mayer said.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the recent discovery of grass carp eggs in the Maumee River “reinforces the need for ongoing coordination of strategic grass carp management actions implemented through member agencies of the Lake Erie Committee.”

Eberly Center for Women highlighting UT researchers

The Catharine S. Eberly Center for Women is focusing on UT researchers with its monthly Lunch With a Purpose program.

The free, public programs take place from noon to 1 p.m. in the Eberly Center for Women Conference Room in Tucker Hall Room 0152.

Listed by date, upcoming UT women faculty members who will discuss their work are:

• Wednesday, Oct. 4 — Dr. Lisa Pescara-Kovach, UT associate professor of educational foundations and leadership, and co-chair of the UT Anti-Bullying Task Force, will discuss, “The Use of Social Media to Recruit College Students as Lone Wolf Terrorists.” Her talk will focus on terrorist organizations that target youth based on information from social media. Pescara-Kovach will provide characteristics of extremist groups and those targeted. She also will share information to help recognize these recruitment efforts.

• Wednesday, Nov. 1 — Dr. Jeanine Refsnider-Streby, UT assistant professor of environmental sciences, will present “Effects of Harmful Algal Blooms on Health of Aquatic Wildlife.” She will note how harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie are toxic to humans and pets, and discuss how little is known about the impacts on wildlife populations.

For more information, go to utoledo.edu/centers/eberly, or stop by the Eberly Center in Tucker Hall Room 0168 or call 419.530.8570.

UT algae, health experts reassure residents on safety of drinking water

Water quality experts at The University of Toledo are working with city of Toledo leaders and water treatment plant operators to help keep the public drinking water supply safe.

Dr. Tom Bridgeman, UT algae researcher and professor of ecology, and Dr. David Kennedy, assistant professor in the UT Department of Medicine, participated in a news conference Thursday with Toledo Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson.

Watch the video here.

Despite the algal bloom visible in the Maumee River, Bridgeman said, “The Maumee River is over 10 miles away from where we get our drinking water. Our water intake is in Lake Erie. Right now, the water quality at the intake is very good. There is almost non-detect toxins at the intake. And the peak of toxins was over two weeks ago, almost three weeks ago. Toxin levels dropped steadily over the last two weeks.”

“There is a disconnect between the harmful algae that we see and the toxins that the algae produce,” Kennedy said. “Just because you have harmful algal blooms does not mean that they are producing toxin, that they have released toxin, that there is toxin.”

NSF awards UT $1.8 million grant to engage high school students with cybersecurity

The University of Toledo will teach more than 2,000 local high school students and teachers how to use mathematics and computational thinking to solve cybersecurity problems in smart vehicles as part of a new $1.8 million grant from the National Science Foundation.

The three-year federal grant for the INITIATE program, which is officially titled Understanding How Integrated Computational Thinking, Engineering Design, and Mathematics Can Help Students Solve Scientific and Technical Problems in Career Technical Education, funds the partnership between UT, NSF and Toledo Public Schools.

Oluoch

At the end of each year, students compete in a “modern pinewood derby” where each team races a smart vehicle through an obstacle course without another team hacking the vehicle to crash or disable it.

“This grant is a great step toward preparing a workforce in the United States that focuses on cybersecurity and smart vehicle technology,” said Dr. Jared Oluoch, UT assistant professor of computer science and engineering technology, and principal investigator of the project. “The concept of smart vehicles is appealing to high school students because it is a new, intriguing idea. Our goal is to improve algebra and geometry standards among the students and prepare them to pursue STEM disciplines in college.”

The program engages local high school students in how to design secure technologies and helps science teachers in grades nine through 12 integrate computational thinking into their curriculum. The project also investigates whether focusing on a specific problem is an effective way to make mathematics more engaging and relevant to students.

The program includes a two-week summer institute for 12 teachers and ongoing academic year meetings designed to assist those teachers in implementing the project into their classrooms with 2,217 students.

Oluoch oversaw the development of the INITIATE program along with Dr. Charlene Czerniak, professor emeritus of science education and research professor in the UT College of Engineering, and Dr. Ahmad Javaid, assistant professor of computer science in the UT College of Engineering.

German physicist to speak at Lake Erie Center on measuring freshwater toxicity using algae, water fleas

A physicist from Germany who invented a water quality instrument used by University of Toledo scientists for Lake Erie algal bloom research is giving a lecture at UT titled “Measuring Toxicity in Freshwater Using Algae and Water Fleas.”

The free, public event will be Thursday, Sept. 21, at 7 p.m. at the UT Lake Erie Center, 6200 Bayshore Road in Oregon.

Moldaenke

Dr. Christian Moldaenke, researcher and founder of the German company bbe Moldaenke, has been in Toledo since mid-July using a new device in western Lake Erie to determine how well the instrument can measure the condition of harmful algal blooms and how blooms react to water treatment chemicals.

“Christian Moldaenke’s company produces some of the best water quality instruments in the world,” said Dr. Tom Bridgeman, UT algae researcher and professor of ecology. “Its fluoroprobe, which is capable of quantifying algae in the water and distinguishing between different types of algae, is the Cadillac of algal probes.”

Moldaenke is working with Bridgeman to advance research into how to protect the water supply.

“My presentation will be about measuring and understanding the water and its creatures,” Moldaenke said. “I will demonstrate how water fleas react to toxins and how we can use their movement to determine blue-green algae in order to achieve better treatment for cyanotoxins.”

Bridgeman said the new devices Moldaenke is testing this algal bloom season in Lake Erie may be capable of easily detecting when algal cells are starting to rupture, which would be a powerful tool for water utility managers to minimize toxin release.

Physicists compare drop in power output from UT solar panels during eclipse to cloudy day

While The University of Toledo experienced a solar eclipse last month, the solar panels on Main Campus and Scott Park Campus lost an “effectively inconsequential” amount of power production as the moon obscured as much as 84 percent of sunlight in the middle of the day.

“Much larger deviations result from daily or seasonal weather events,” according to a team from the UT Department of Physics and Astronomy that modeled and analyzed power output during the eclipse Aug. 21.

The solar photovoltaic array on Scott Park Campus lost an “inconsequential” amount of electrical energy generation due to the solar eclipse Aug. 21, according to UT researchers.

The solar photovoltaic array at the R1 Building along Dorr Street lost 33.5 kilowatt-hour (kWh), approximately as much electricity as the average single home in the U.S. consumes in one day.

“This is the typical production for a partly to mostly cloudy day,” Dr. Randy Ellingson, UT professor of physics, said.

The solar photovoltaic array on Scott Park Campus, which is 35 times larger than the R1 array on Main Campus and generates approximately 1,300,000 kWh of electrical energy during a typical year, lost approximately 1,170 kWh of electrical energy generation due to the eclipse.

“The eclipse resulted in the loss of less than 0.1 percent of annual production,” Ellingson said.

The UT team, which includes graduate student David Raker, will share its monitoring data with MDA Information Systems LLC, a Maryland company working to provide forecasts to predict the temporary shortfall from solar arrays up to three days in advance to help grid operators make changes to meet electricity needs for customers.

Toledo is in the path of totality for the solar eclipse in 2024.

Canaday Center preserves Toledo’s first city charter

A small envelope tucked away in a safe in the attic of Toledo’s Safety Building downtown was labeled with a handwritten note reading, “Charter of the City of Toledo Year 1837.”

The fragile pieces of paper inside, which had been carefully folded and stored by city employees at some point in history, document the original charter and bylaws of the city of Toledo printed in 1837, the year the city was founded.

The “Charter of the City of Toledo Year 1837” was discovered in a safe in the attic of Toledo’s Safety Building. The document from the year the city was founded is now preserved in the Canaday Center for Special Collections.

“It is unusual for such historically significant documents as the city’s first charter to be squirreled away like that in the attic of a city building,” said Barbara Floyd, director of the Ward M. Canaday Center for Special Collections at The University of Toledo. “But the fact that they still exist 180 years later indicates that storing them in the attic ensured their survival.”

The charter document that includes numerous amendments — some written directly on the charter, another written out in longhand and attached to the back of the document — is now permanently preserved in the Canaday Center in UT’s Carlson Library, where it will be housed in a temperature and humidity controlled environment and available for public viewing.

The University will present these historic documents to the public at an event Tuesday, Sept. 19, at 10 a.m. in the Canaday Center with UT President Sharon L. Gaber, Toledo Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson and elected city officials.

In addition to the original charter that features the signature of Toledo’s first mayor John Berdan, the safe contained a poll book for the year 1836 with a handwritten list of the 226 individuals living in the township of Port Lawrence who were eligible to vote in the city’s first election. It was dated Oct. 11, 1836, and contains the names of many of the most important people in the history of the city, including Benjamin Stickney and Stickney’s son, Two Stickney.

“These would have been the individuals who voted in the election for Toledo’s first mayor,” Floyd said.

The collection of historic city records also includes several other iterations of the charter from the 19th century — folders of handwritten amendments from 1845 and 1851, and a complete charter from 1846 that bears the certifying signature of Ohio Secretary of State Samuel Galloway from back when city charters had to be approved by the state legislature.

A 1928 ballot for the UT bond issue was among documents discovered in the attic of the Toledo Safety Building. Voters approved the bond, which raised $2.8 million to build on what is now UT’s Main Campus.

The city records also document some details of the history of The University of Toledo. One handwritten piece dated 1874 concerns an effort by the trustees of the Toledo University of Arts and Trades, which had been founded by Jesup W. Scott two years before, to give the assets of the University to the city of Toledo after Scott’s death. That did not happen, and the University closed four years later. In 1884, what remained of the University’s assets was turned over to Toledo, and the school reopened as a municipal school that year, which it would remain until 1967.

The collection also contains a ballot and certified election results for the bond issue approved by voters in November 1928 that raised $2.8 million to build UT’s Bancroft Street campus.

The newest records found earlier this year in the Safety Building were added to existing local historical documents the Canaday Center acquired two years ago; these include the first minute book of Toledo City Council from 1837, records of Toledo’s city manager dating from 1947, and a large collection of annual reports from city departments, dating from the 1890s.

“I have been an archivist for 35 years and have helped to preserve some great collections,” said Floyd, who will retire from her position as director of the Canaday Center and university archivist at the end of September. “But these materials that document the city of Toledo are some of the most important materials I have ever come across. Ensuring they are preserved and accessible to the public is a highlight of my career.”

Some of the city documents will be on public display in the Canaday Center’s next exhibit, “Preserving Yesterday for Tomorrow: The Best of the Ward M. Canaday Center,” that is slated to open in early November.

Nearly $2.4 million federal grant awarded to help UT researcher turn algae into fuel source

The U.S. Department of Energy awarded The University of Toledo a nearly $2.4 million grant to find a faster, cleaner process to produce fuel using algae without needing to add concentrated carbon dioxide.

Dr. Sridhar Viamajala, UT associate professor of chemical engineering, said this three-year project to help algal fuels replace fossil fuels is a continuation of his previous work in partnership with Montana State University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Arizona State University.

Viamajala

“We are trying to speed up the growth of algae by providing a very high pH environment that allows algae to take up carbon dioxide gas from the atmosphere more efficiently and prevent unwanted contamination,” Viamajala said. “Since it grows in water, algae doesn’t have as much carbon dioxide available. We are trying to improve the cleaner fuel potential.”

The project to create a comprehensive strategy for stable, high-productivity cultivation of microalgae with controllable biomass composition also includes genetic testing.

“This funding puts northwest Ohio at the forefront of a national effort to create new technologies and methods for biofuels,” said Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur. “These types of programs can lead to breakthroughs that will create American jobs and enhance our energy security, which is why I remain committed to renewable energy and advanced research from my role overseeing Department of Energy funding on the Appropriations Committee. Congratulations to the researchers at The University of Toledo for receiving this award.”

The research is funded through the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and Office of Bioenergy Technology.

UT’s grant is part of about $8.8 million recently announced by the U.S. Department of Energy for projects that will deliver high-impact tools and techniques for increasing the productivity of algae organisms in order to reduce the costs of producing algal biofuels and bioproducts. 

Ribbon cutting Sept. 5 to celebrate new Drinking Water Research Lab

A new Drinking Water Research Laboratory at The University of Toledo will allow local municipalities to quickly and easily test the safety of the public water supply.

A $500,000 grant from the state of Ohio Community Capital Program provided the state-of-the-art technology and renovations for the laboratory in the UT College of Engineering.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held Tuesday, Sept. 5, at 10 a.m. in North Engineering Building Room 1600 with UT researchers joined by elected officials and community partners.

The lab’s new liquid chromatography mass spectrometer system and new flow cytometer will be used to detect various cyanotoxins, such as microcystin from the toxic algal blooms in Lake Erie, and assimilable organic carbon, which is used by harmful microorganisms, to ensure the contaminants are not present in drinking water.

The dedicated lab focused exclusively on drinking water research eliminates concerns of cross contamination from other samples to allow very low detection limits for improved testing accuracy.

“Water treatment plants in Ohio face new challenges from a host of emerging algal toxins, as well as contaminants from other emerging micropollutants, such as pharmaceutical products or microplastics, in their source waters,” said Dr. Youngwoo Seo, associate professor in UT’s Civil and Environmental Engineering and Chemical Engineering departments. “By engaging with the lab, the municipalities can get early warning signs of new and emerging algal toxins, as well as quantification of existing toxins during cases of concern.”

“Many water utilities have difficulties in continuously analyzing samples due to high costs and limited time. They will now have access to the lab on a regular basis for monitoring contaminants in treated water, as well as samples from different points in the treatment process,” said Dr. Joseph G. Lawrence, UT research professor and director of the Center for Materials and Sensor Characterization. “A water utility could, for example, send water samples every week during the algal bloom to track the concentration of toxins in source water and treated water so that they can make informed decisions on the type of treatment.”

Water quality is a major research focus at UT. With $12.5 million in active grants underway, UT experts are studying algal blooms, invasive species such as Asian carp, and pollutants. Researchers are looking for pathways to restore our greatest natural resource for future generations to ensure communities continue to have access to safe drinking water.