Algal-derived biodiesel through the lens of community ecology: My research into alternative fuel sources stems from a deep passion for understanding how we, as humans, can continue to develop as a society while maintaining our status as stewards of the Earth. As we continue to consume natural resources at extremely high rates, exterminate species, and pollute the environment around us, developing a more sustainable role for humans in the environment is extremely important. My research focuses on our energy consumption, mainly on identifying an alternative fuel source to the traditional fossil fuel supplies humans have quickly diminished. I believe a potential answer is algae. A number of algal species contain a high amount of lipids, or fats, the base component for diesel fuel production. Along with this high fat content, algae’s ability to quickly grow, consume carbon dioxide throughout its life cycle (decreasing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere), and grow in uncultivated lands makes it an excellent alternative fuel source for our diesel fuel supply. I am focusing on how we can inexpensively grow algae in outdoor ponds all over the world. Specifically I'm investigating whether these ponds containing multiple species can continuously supply high amounts of fats for fuel generation while facing seasonal environmental changes (temperature, pH, light levels, etc.) and stave off invading algal species and pathogen infections that may disrupt the community.
"There is but one world and everything that is imaginable is necessary to it. For this world for which seems to us a thing of stone and flower and blood is not a thing at all but is a tale." -Cormac McCarthy The Crossing
On the macro scale, I would say that I attempt to unravel this tale of life to better understand how our protagonists' (the algae, of course) interact with one another and their surroundings so that I might assemble an ensemble of actors that are highly productive together to ultimately yield high volumes of algal-derived biodiesel.
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