Algaepalooza to Look for Green Source for Biodiesel

John Davis

Scientists in the St. Louis, Missouri area are hoping to get some help from local residents in finding the ideal algae to turn into biodiesel.

During the upcoming 2nd annual Algaepalooza, held Saturday, May 7, 2011 from 10am to 4pm in the Life Science Lab at the Saint Louis Science Center, people will be able to pick up algae-collecting kits as part of the Backyard Biofuels citizen science research project:

Last year, 1,000 families and individuals were given collection kits, and approximately 170 samples were cultured in the Life Science Lab to isolate individual algae species that produce oil. More than 100 of those isolated strains were sent to the Enterprise Rent-A-Car Institute for Renewable Fuels at the Danforth Plant Science Center, where they were tested for how much oil could be made and used for biofuel production. Those that showed promise are undergoing additional tests.

“Ten samples from last year’s algae gave high readings of oil production. Such encouraging results wouldn’t be possible without the help of citizen scientists.” said Matthew Stevens, senior lab technician at the Danforth Plant Science Center who conducts the research for the Backyard Biofuels program. “This year we have a goal to identify an algae species that boast better oil productivity than last year.”

And since folks will have the option of mailing in their collection kits, organizers expect more samples this year.

Algaepalooza gives visitors the chance to talk with the research scientists behind the project and learn why algae have the potential to be a sustainable source of fuel used to power cars, trucks and jet airplanes. More information is available at

algae, Biodiesel