Friends of the Biological Station will not be surprised to hear that professors Pat Kociolek and Rex Lowe have secured funding from the National Geographic Society to study algae in India this summer.  The two, whose phycological enthusiasm is inversely related to public appreciation of algae, will be conducting  an inventory of the freshwater algae and macroinvertebrates of India’s Western Ghats.

Lowe and Kociolek teach Algae in Freshwater Ecosystems at the Biological Station.  Kociolek, the grant’s lead investigator, is a Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Director of the Museum of Natural History at the University of Colorado.  Lowe is Professor Emeritus of Biology at Bowling Green State University.  They will be joined in India by researchers from the Natural History Museum in London, the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment, and the Zoological Survey of India.

Kociolek says the Western Ghats is recognized as a biodiversity hotspot.  Yet little is known about its aquatic organisms, especially algae and insects.  “Some preliminary work I have done in the region suggests there are many new species of diatoms present,” he says  The team hopes this is the first step in a more thorough study of the region.  Before they can do more intensive research, however, they need to collect specimens in a diversity of habitats and start to document the diversity in the region.  As their grant application noted, these will be “the first systematic collections of algae and benthic macroinvertebrates from the major river systems of the Western Ghats; this will produce a baseline of collections against which future change can be measured.”

This same drive to document diversity and find new species has already led the two to Hawaii and China.  This past summer, they took the UMBS Algae class to Lake of the Clouds, in Michigan’s western Upper Peninsula for an initial inventory there.  We expect to share news of their findings from that survey in 2013.

The Lowe-Kociolek partnership (in crime, research and teaching) dates to 1979, when Kociolek took Rex's Freshwater Algae class.