Whilst not the most traditionally exciting organism, diatoms are useful and important in many ways, and they are going to become increasingly relevant as concerns about climate change increase. These unicellular algae are being used as a bioindicator organism for my dissertation, and I will be using this blog to learn more about diatoms, in ways that won’t always directly relate to my research.
Each species has a very specific set of tolerance levels for environmental factors such as water pH, water temperature, and pollution. Due to the typically unicellular structure, and high turnover rate, diatoms are incredibly useful when assessing environmental changes, as diatom assemblages can alter rapidly – diatoms will migrate to previously inhospitable areas when the conditions start to fall within their tolerances, and migrate out of a newly inhospitable area just as readily.
I will be researching and discussing general morphological features of diatoms, including some specific examples, with comparison between the two main orders (centric and pennate). Alongside a more general discussion of the different types of diatom, there will be a focus on species found within central Wales, as this is where my personal research is based.
Furthermore, I will be covering the history of diatoms and their usefulness when discussing past water conditions, as well as an interesting Victorian use. I hope to include brief overviews of some recent studies using diatoms, as well as some predictions about future applications.