Montana Public Radio

algae

Lichens are a combination of fungi and algae living together in a symbiotic relationship. In this symbiosis, the fungi and algae benefit from each other. This evolutionary adaptation allows lichens to grow in some incredibly harsh environments: in deserts and in the Arctic, on barren tundra and on bare rock. Lichens grow in such rugged environments that some early naturalists thought they existed on nothing but air and sunlight.

The Gallatin City-County Health Department recently detected a toxic algae bloom in a privately-owned pond in Bozeman. It’s the first one in the county this year.

Gallatin County temporarily closed a pond at Sundance Springs Subdivision on July 10 after test results came back positive for algal toxins, which are released by certain types of algae after rapid growth followed by decay.

DEQ said Tuesday morning after the story had been published that the agency has decided to cancel the in-person meetings for the Smith River Algae Study and will offer the Helena meeting as a live stream on YouTube channel.">DEQ's YouTube channel, Wednesday from 3-5 pm.

Updates on an ongoing study of algae growth on the iconic Smith River are expected from the Montana Department of Environmental Quality this week. Details on the study will be released at public meetings in Helena and White Sulphur Springs.

Sponges: These Aquatic Oddities Are At Home In Montana

Jan 5, 2020
Spongilla lacustris, a widspread freshwater sponge often found under logs and rocks in lakes.
Kirt L. Onthank (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

Although many people associate these stone-like animals with the crystalline waters of the tropics, several species of sponges do occur in lakes and ponds across North America, including those of western Montana. 

A boat at the Flathead Lake Biological Station.
Corin Cates-Carney / Montana Public Radio

A viral Facebook post is spreading false information about a toxic blue-green algae bloom in Flathead Lake, according to lake researchers. The post claims that a dog died after swimming in the lake, but the Flathead Lake Biological Research Station says there’s no evidence to support the claim.

Freshwater diatom seen under a scanning electron microscope.
Courtesy UM Electron Microscopy Facility

The bottom of this shallow stream is covered with a complex community of algae, comprising many different species. Probably most abundant of all are the diatoms, many of which secrete a slippery mucus as they travel, leaving the rocks very slick.

A warning sign for waters that may contain toxic algae.
Montana DEQ/Montana DPHHS

State agencies are warning of increasing "pea soup" looking algal blooms in Montana’s freshwater lakes and reservoirs.

The blue-green algae are usually suspended from or joined to floating mats in the water, and can produce toxins that damage the skin, liver and nerve cells.

Exploring The Landscape Of The Pixie Cup Lichen

Jul 2, 2018
Pixie-cup lichen.
Bernard Spragg (PD)

Lying on my stomach on the fringes of the forest, my view is perfect of a colony of tiny lichens. They are perched on top of a rock outcrop, beyond which lies a majestic view eastward across the cold, choppy waters of Flathead Lake and on to the Mission Mountains looming on the opposite shore. 

The lichens resemble pale green miniature goblets, and look as though carefully set on a table of bright green moss.

Algae growth is increasing on Montana’s famed Smith River and scientists don’t know why. So, they’re turning to the public for help.

Excessive algae can deplete oxygen and alter water pH levels, harming fish and other aquatic life in the process. Algae blooms are also a nuisance to humans who encounter them on rivers and lakes.

Flickr user, Jason Hollinger (CC-BY-2.0)

Recently, the work of lichenologist Toby Spribille, a research professor based part-year at the University of Montana-Missoula, has upended the idea that lichen are an alliance between just one fungus and one algae. In many lichens, a mysterious yeast is the third player in this symbiosis. 

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