DRI working with community to collect snow algae samples

Published: Jun. 21, 2022 at 8:40 AM PDT
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - The Desert Research Institute is working to learn more about algae found in snow and you can help. It’s called the Living Snow Project.

“What the Living Snow Project is is using citizen scientists to help us collect samples of snow, and particularly snow algae, that bloom in the spring snowfields,” said Alison Murray, a Research Professor at the Desert Research Institute.

You can help out by getting a kit from a few different locations, including directly from D.R.I. You can find a list of them here.

“Basically all that’s in those kits are two little plastic tubes that are filled with a little bit of preservative to preserve the genetic material of the algae that you collect and then there’s also a pair of gloves to wear,” said Sonia Nieminen, Student Intern at D.R.I.

The kits also come with instructions on how to pack everything up. After collecting a sample, you can log your location by using their app.

“The Living Snow Project app is basically how we’re logging those different samples and sightings of snow algae,” said Nieminen. “It’s kind of a big place to compile all the different observations made by citizen scientists.”

The snow we gathered was near Mount Rose Summit. The algae wasn’t the easiest to spot, as the snow just looked dirty. Usually, the algae is hard to miss.

“They can be orange, kind of a watermelon pink color, to a really deep red,” said Murray.

So why enlist the help of the community?

“We’re interested in the ecology of the snow algae and their biodiversity and really how prevalent they are,” said Murray. “So through having a citizen science project, we can get more boots on the ground and through hikers and summer skiers, to really get out in the mountains to help us log where it is and collect samples for us.”

You can find more information on the Living Snow Project here.

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