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. One my newest ventures is focusing on how algae can be used to cleanup high nutrient wastewater sources from breweries. Can we advance the sustainability of the expanding craft brewery scene while generating a value-added algae byproduct?
Jake's Research in the News!