ASU Scientist Receives $150,000 Grant from National Science Foundation
By Hazel Scott/ASU
ASU researcher Dr. Muhammad Saleem has received a $150,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to continue his work with the harmful algal blooms (HAB).
His research grant, titled “Catalyst Project: Microbial Trophic Complexity in Waterbodies: Elucidating the Role of Algal-Microbiome-Nutrient Interactions in Harmful Algal Bloom Formation,” will run through 2023.
Saleem, an assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences since 2019, explained that his research focuses on examining the toxic or harmful algae in the Alabama River System in collaboration with Dr. Alan Wilson at Auburn University.
He emphasized that excessive nutrient loading is caused by several anthropogenic factors, for example, from agricultural run-off leads to the formation of HAB in the receiving water bodies such as streams, rivers and coastal areas.
“As Harmful Algal Blooms grow, they deplete the oxygen in the water and block sunlight from reaching fish and plants. And when the algae eventually die off, the microbes which decompose the dead algae use up even more oxygen, which in turn causes more fish to die or damage water quality” Saleem said.
He said his research will investigate the role of microbial (bacterial, protists, algae) diversity and nutrient enrichment in the formation of these Harmful Algal Blooms.
“The Harmful Algal Blooms damage water quality by producing toxins and utilizing oxygen which is needed to sustain the life economically aquatic organisms such as fish. The research is aimed at how we can protect our water sources and how we detect these harmful algae in the water so that we can improve the quality of water resources by understanding how the harmful algae are formed,” he said.
Saleem is the principal investigator on the project; however, he will be training undergraduate students and one graduate student as part of the project.
“This grant is very important to ASU. The project will contribute to our training program in microbial ecology for educating and mentoring ASU’s future scientists,” he said. “It also will improve their skills in microbiology studies that are linked with human health, our environment and linked to the quality of our water supplies.”