Honors Theses and Capstones

Date of Award

Spring 2016

Project Type

Senior Honors Thesis

College or School



Environmental Engineering

Program or Major

Environmental Engineering

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science

First Advisor

Alison Watts


This research involved evaluating algae as an indicator of water quality in New Hampshire's rivers, with a focus on the Great Bay Estuary. The project had three main goals. First, determining whether or not algae would work as an indicator of water quality in the great bay ecosystem, an environment where tidal currents are strong and water composition is mixed. The second goal was to compare traditional microscopic methods of taxonomy with emerging genomic methods, increasing the economic viability of attached algae monitoring. The third project goal, still underway, is to evaluate massive amounts of genomic data from the Great Bay ecosystem to see if other organisms might serve as viable indicators of environmental conditions in the bay. Despite the smalla tiny data set, traditional microscopic analysis results suggest that attached algae may be a viable indicator of water quality in the Great Bay Estuary. Further research including a larger data set will be required to evaluate the viability of genomic methods to supplement microscopic analyses, however early results have encouraged us to continue pursuing this research and expand our study to a larger portion of New Hampshire. Early results using bacteria have also encouraged us to continue analysis of genomic data in pursuit of goal number three, to find additional indicators that may serve as useful in water quality monitoring programs in New Hampshire.