Lisa Benavides


The purpose of Dr. Silliman’s research is to determine if algae blooms, aka red tide can be predicted.  It is important to see what is happening in our bays and if there is a way to predict changes.  A lot of people suffer with upper respiratory when the red tide is present.  Marine life is also affected because it reduces the amount of oxygen in the water.8795823_G

We would collect samples from various locations along the bay.  We would go early in the morning because we would go onto private property so that way we would not disturb the home owner also this was when the water was the calmest.

The microlayer is topmost layer of the bay.


Methods & Procedures

On days that we would collect our samples we would bring our supplies, which included:

Clean funnels                    Teflon scraper                                    Ethanol

40 mL vails                        Glass plates to get sample           Kimwipes

Tops for tubes                    DI (deionized water)            Ice chest to store samples

Gloves                                   Rope                                           Bucket to store supplies

Once we got to our location we followed the following steps:

  1.  Put on gloves.
  2. Rinse glass plate and Teflon scrapper with DI water and ethanol.  Dry plate and scrapper with kimwipes.
  3. Attach rope to top of glass plate.
  4. Place a short-stem funnel into a 40 mL vial.
  5. Lower plate into water until it is completely immersed.  We usually did this 3 times.
  6. Carefully raise glass plate out of water.
  7. Within a few seconds start collecting the microlayer sample by scraping the adhering water on the plate into the funnel of the glass vial using the Teflon scrapper making sure to scrape both sides of the glass plate.
  8. Screw on a lid to the vial, label and place inside cooler to keep chilled.
  9. Repeat from steps 2 through 8 until all samples are collected.
  10. When returning to the lab place vials in the refrigerator until processing.

We usually got samples once a week. It is very important that there is a minimum of 2 people, if not one person cannot do it alone.

Once in the lab, that is when we did extractions. 20160711_104010 copy

This is the “standard” that was put in all our samples when we did our extractions. This “standard” bonds to the alkanes, alkenes, and alkynes that we extract.

2,5,6,7,8,11,15-heptachloroheptadecane.svg (an alkane with a short chain)

We also used Dichloromethane, which is a very volatile.  When we worked with this we worked under a hood as a safety precaution.F214577-wl

When doing extractions we would need to following supplies:

Gloves     Glass stopper                 DCM              40 mL vail with lids        Sep funnel

Graduated cylinder            Ring stand         Syringe           Standard

Then we would do the following steps:

  1. Put on gloves.
  2. Remove sample vials and standard from refrigerator and allow them to war up to room temperature, which is about 1 hour.
  3. Make sure stopcock on sep funnel is closed.  Pour sample into sep funnel.
  4. Rinse vial out three times with dichloromethane (DCM) and add to sep funnel.
  5. Add 300 mL of the standard to the sep funnel using the syringe.
  6. Measure 5 mLs of DCM in graduated cylinder and add to sep funnel.
  7. Attach glass stopper and shake for2 minutes, burp the funnel periodically by opening the glass stopper in the upright position every 10-15 seconds to release any build up of pressure.
  8. Set sep funnel on ring stand and allow DCM and water layers to separate  completely.  Note:  DCM is heavier than water and will settle to the bottom.
  9. Place a clean 40mL vial under the sep funnel.  Open the stopcock and drain the DCM layer into the vial – be sure not to let any water drain into the vial.
  10. Screw on lid and repeat steps 5-7 two more times.
  11. Label vial and store in refrigerator.


I learned a lot this summer.  I am a math teacher, so I know very little about science.  The formulas I can understand, but that is about the extent of my science knowledge.  I got to work with some really good people in Dr. Silliman’s research.  They took the time to explain complex things to me so even I, a “non-science” person could understand.

When we worked together, it was the same thing over and over.  I now understand that this is extremely important to have procedures in place to have a valid conclusion.

Unfortunately, I will not know the conclusion of this research for some time.  We would collect the samples out in the bay and in the lab do the extraction.  We would do this to prepare the extractions to go to another lab to see what is in out extractions.


So some lingering questions I have are:

  1.  What are the findings of Dr. Silliman’s research.
  2. Is there a way to predict when an algae bloom will happen.

Lesson Plan



Students will watch the following video to review ratios & proportion



Students would be in pairs and do the following warm up to remind them about rates.  Then when they had their data, they would make predictions.


Students will be given random samples and using the data make predictions on whether a red tide will occur.


Students will present their predictions to the class.



TEKS:  7th Grade Math

(4)  Proportionality. The student applies mathematical process standards to represent and solve problems involving proportional relationships. The student is expected to:

(B)  calculate unit rates from rates in mathematical and real-world problems;

(D)  solve problems involving ratios, rates, and percents, including multi-step problems involving percent increase and percent decrease, and financial literacy problems; and

(E)  convert between measurement systems, including the use of proportions and the use of unit rates.

(6)  Proportionality. The student applies mathematical process standards to use probability and statistics to describe or solve problems involving proportional relationships. The student is expected to:

(C)  make predictions and determine solutions using experimental data for simple and compound events;

(E)  find the probabilities of a simple event and its complement and describe the relationship between the two;

(F)  use data from a random sample to make inferences about a population;