Algae are found in all aquatic systems and are an essential food source for many organisms. The Algae Laboratory supports statewide water quality monitoring programs and special studies through the analysis of algal assemblages using microscopy. The major focus is on phytoplankton, which are suspended microscopic organisms found in the water column capable of photosynthesis. Other types of algae are also analyzed including benthic algae and periphyton.

Both routine and episodic algal assessments are performed at the lab.  Routine samples are collected at fixed locations and can show status and trends in algal assemblages over time. Episodic evaluations are collected in response to specific events and support the state’s algal bloom and fish kill response efforts.

The Algae Lab also identifies unknown or unusual aquatic samples, which are often but not always predominated by algae. The fact sheets below can help you learn more about the different types of algae, aquatic plants, and other species and substances that may be found in North Carolina waters.