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UW Sea Grant Project

by schmil19 last modified Aug 25, 2011 03:19 PM

Cladophora Beach Project

UW Sea Grant Project 01

Project Summary

Project Title: 

Evaluation of the Effects of the Algal Nuisance Cladophora on E.coli and Beach Closures

Principal Investigators:

Associate Investigators:

  • Michael Sadowsky, Professor, Dept. of Soil, Water, and Climate, Univ. of MN, Minneapolis, MN
  • Richard Whitman, Station Chief and Research Ecologist, USGS, Lake Michigan Ecol. Stat., Porter, IN
  • Todd R. Sandrin1, Asst Professor of Microbial Physiology, UW-Oshkosh
  • Robert Pillsbury1, Asst. Professor of Biology (Limnology/Phycology), UW-Oshkosh
  • William Schuster, Director, Door County Soil and Water Conservation Department, Sturgeon Bay, WI
  • Julie Kinzelman, Public Health Microbiologist, City of Racine, Dept. of Public Health, Racine, WI
  • Muruleedhara Byappanahali, Research Microbiologist, USGS, Lake Michigan Ecol. Station, Porter, IN


Dept. of Biology and Microbiology

University of Wisconsin Oshkosh

800 Algoma Blvd.

Oshkosh, WI 54901

Phone - (920) 424-1100

Fax - (920) 424-1101

E-mail -


Our overarching goal is to determine if E. coli associated with Cladophora mats influences beach closures in the Great Lakes. Our multi-institutional, interdisciplinary team will pursue this broad objective by addressing the following specific objectives. 

Objective 1: Determine spatial and temporal effects of elevated Cladophora levels on the relative abundance of E. coli and other indicator bacteria (i.e., Enterococci) in proximity to bathing beaches. Underlying hypothesis (H1): Cladophora mats contribute to the background level of indicator organisms at recreational beaches. 

Objective 2: Determine if populations of E. coli found in Cladophora mats (both floating and on-shore) are transient or clonally derived. Underlying hypothesis (H2): Cladophora mats provide a suitable environment for the long-term survival and replication of E. coli

Objective 3: Determine if Cladophora mats harbor pathogenic microorganisms (CampylobacterSalmonella, and Shigella) in higher densities and frequencies than surrounding lake water. Underlying hypothesis (H3): Cladophora mats provide an environment that leads to increased/prolonged survival and growth of potential bacterial pathogens in lake water.


Spatial and temporal effects of the mats will be evaluated by determining E. coli concentrations within mats and along transects out from mats. E. coli isolates will be recovered from mats and established microbial source-tracking repPCR methodologies will be used to determine if populations of E. coli associated with free-floating and on-shore Cladophora mats are transient or clonal. This will allow for determination of diversity within E. coli populations at various sites and throughout the sampling season. This has great implications for beach managers. SalmonellaShigella, andCampylobacter concentrations will be determined from water and mats using standard microbiological methods.


Closure of beaches along the Great Lakes for microbial contamination has occurred since enactment of the BEACH Act (2000). Source tracking of the microbial contaminants is necessary to better understand and remediate contaminations. The nuisance algae, Cladophora, have been suggested as a source of nutritionally rich and protective habitats for contaminating bacteria. This study will determine if Cladophora mats are associated with beach closures and can act as a source of contaminating microbes in beach water. This potential algal effect has great implications for beach managers and municipalities. The proposed interdisciplinary project offers several potential applications and benefits to numerous communities and beach managers around the Great Lakes (and many coastal areas) , and specifically in Wisconsin. 

The information gained as a result of this project will be of use to the WI DNR, USEPA, USGS, and numerous local communities battling increased Cladophora and increased beach closures. Specific communities impacted include Door and Kewaunee Counties, and virtually all communities on the Lake Michigan shoreline. The major industry impacted is the $12+ billion/year tourism industry in Wisconsin, as well as the Great Lakes-wide tourism industry. While this project will focus on a Great Lakes system, it is anticipated that this project will serve as a model for other communities having lakes with increased levels of green algae. 


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by schmil19 last modified Aug 25, 2011 03:19 PM