woman in lab
Our Planet
Deciphering Deadly Algae

Small Discoveries in Unexpected Places


For the past decade, Dr. Jean McLain in the Department of Environmental Science at the University of Arizona has tackled the environmental challenge of what makes algae in our water bodies suddenly become deadly. And now, she finally has a clue.

Algae has existed for billions of years. But we know little about why algae suddenly grows out of control and produces dangerous toxins. Known as harmful algal blooms, the blue-green algae (also known as cyanobacteria) produces toxins that sicken people, kill animals and wreak havoc on our water treatment systems.

Through water sampling, microbiological analysis and collaboration with local municipalities, Dr. McLain and her student Robert Lynch discovered that something in recycled water inhibits the growth of toxic algae. This initial discovery could help scientists and governments better understand and predict algal toxins all over the world.



About the Project


Landmark Stories is proud to partner up with the Department of Environmental Science at the University of Arizona to tell a series of stories about students and faculty members who are making a difference in our communities and the world. Together we tell the real stories and journeys of the people who are working tirelessly to find solutions to some of the biggest environmental challenges we are facing today to improve the quality of life for all.

woman by pond
man sampling water by a pond
green algae in a bag at a lab
back of woman
pond with duck weed and algae
woman in lab
woman in office in front of a computer
Production crew
Story By - Sandra Westdahl
Sandra Westdahl
Drone Photography - Cody Sheehy
Cody Sheehy
Drone Photographer
Second Camera
Assistant Camera - Angel Marquez
Angel Marquez
Sound Recordist
Sound Mix - Galen McCaw
Galen McCaw
Sound Mix
Communications - Caroline Mosley
Caroline Mosley

Behind the Scenes

Made Possible By
The Department of Environmental Science at the University of Arizona