‘Moving Innovation Forward’ the Algae Way

We are taught many valuable and important lessons in the pursuit of education.  When I say we are taught, this can sometimes mean that we are given a script of words with little meaning besides motivating students to memorize and recite the lines and methods that are provided.

Will the things we “learn” be of value when the memories and stored data start to melt into blurred images?  While holes burn through the surface information like a candle’s flame under parchment paper?

Present and past students alike may recall looking back at their frantically scribbled class notes:  Brow furrowed, foot tapping, pen and highlighter lying precariously near the edge of the desk.  You sit there staring at your writing wondering how, for the love of Pete, you were going absorb those words through some form of osmosis from the page to your brain within a limited time frame.  After an unsuccessful attempt, you deem your notes to be about as useful as Canadian Tire money at your local supermarket.

There is more to learning than simply absorbing and reciting.  Learning, really learning, sparks inspiration in the hearts of the learners and creates motivation to break barriers and not simply follow a generic procedure; to be inspired to learn by starting with the basics and gradually moving on to new and innovative landscapes.

To me, a true education teaches students to want to ask the questions of why and how and to search for answers by uncovering them in places that tend to be hidden and overlooked; to learn to think, really and truly think, and influence others to do the same.  This process is manifested in the Pollutants-to-Products, P2P, research projects.

algea huh (2)When I think of algae, a topic that doesn’t usually pop into my head for deep contemplation, I think of pond scum and guppies; the extent of my algae experience ended when I washed my hands of my old fish tank without a backward glance.  The ground breaking potential of algae had somehow eluded me.

Yet, there is more to the green substance than meets the eye: One of the projects pursued by the P2P research team is cultivating microalgae to clean air pollutants.  To clean air pollutants.  Algae. What?

I recently toured the solarium located at the Grande Prairie Regional College, and Dr. Abigail Adebusuyi showed me how they test different algae strains under varying temperatures, light intensities, and carbon dioxide concentrations.

She explained how sensors are used to monitor the intake and exhaust gas from the photobioreactor containing microalgae culture.  When the results are analyzed, it has been observed that different algae strains have unique capacities to clean air by absorbing carbon dioxide and other pollutants.

What I was shown in my twenty minute tour was the tip of the iceberg of what the dedicated and enthusiastic scientists and researchers are working toward: to develop environmentally sustainable technologies using algae.  They are taking the initiative to wield science in a fascinating direction that, to a lot of people, wouldn’t have even appeared as an option.solarium

photobioreactorWhen I was introduced to this initiative, my first thought was, “Did they just say algae?” and when it was confirmed that, yes, they did in fact mean algae, I was understandably impressed.  I am curious to see where this innovative road will lead and what discoveries will be made along the way.  If you are also curious about what the Pollutants-to-Products team is working on, you can visit the CRI website: http://www.thecri.ca/pollutants-products-p2p

Before I knew about the P2P project, algae had never been anything but a childhood nemesis.  In reality, it has incredible potential and room for deep research.  My eyes have been opened, and because of this insight, I have to wonder what other aspects of the world have this untapped potential waiting to be discovered and nurtured.  Awareness of these innovative projects, with promising goals and interesting science, could be the flint to spark inspiration in the heart, motivation in the mind, and vision to the eyes.  Once this inspiration has been unlocked, I hope that people strive to ask questions and search for answers in some of the most improbable places.  It may come as a surprise, but some of the answers may be green, slimy, and glorious.







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