WWU's Robin Matthews to Present 'What is This Slime in My Water?' April 4

WWU Professor of Environmental Sciences and Director of Western's Institute for Watershed Studies Robin Matthews will present "What is This Slime in My Water?"  at 4:45 p.m. on Thursday, April 4 in Academic West 204 as part of the Huxley College Speaker Series.

The Institute for Watershed Studies (IWS) supports a variety of interdisciplinary projects that provide exciting opportunities for students engaged in watershed research.

One example is the Lake Whatcom monitoring program, which was initiated >50 years ago and continues to provide long-term water quality data for Bellingham’s primary drinking water source. 

A second example, the Northwest Lakes monitoring program, is a community service project started in 2001 that provides water quality data for 60-70 lakes in our region. These two projects were instrumental in Western Washington University being awarded the National President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll with Distinction Award in 2013 and 2015.

The Institute also helps students conduct studies of freshwater biota, with a growing emphasis on freshwater algae.  Blooms of potentially harmful blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) have increased in frequency and duration in freshwater lakes, causing lakes to be closed to fishing and other recreational activities.  The public funds available to test lakes for algal toxins are limited, so most testing is done in response to public complaints.  Fortunately, it is relatively easy to identify potentially toxic algal blooms, and many regulatory agencies are focusing on community engagement as a way to improve identification and tracking of toxic blooms.  IWS is working with the Cyanobacteria Monitoring Collaborative (http://cyanos.org) to help support citizen science algae monitoring across the US.  Locally, IWS offers workshops on algal identification, non-technical online keys and information pages (e.g., https://www.inaturalist.org/guides/6092),  and “drop-off” identification services for local citizens who what to know what kind of slime is in their lake.

Matthews received her academic training from Virginia Polytechnic Institute (Ph. D., 1981); Indiana University (M. S., 1978); and the University of California, Riverside (B. S., 1973). Her research interests include freshwater ecology, algal taxonomy, and ecological data analysis.  Her current research programs focus on monitoring surface water quality in Whatcom County streams and lakes; identifying the impacts from agricultural and residential development on water quality; and developing keys to freshwater algae in Northwest Washington.  She teaches courses in biostatistics and freshwater algae, and supervises many student research and community outreach project.