Algae as a Source of Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids

Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Dr. John Miller

Second Advisor

Dr. Steven Bertman

Third Advisor

Dr. David Huffman

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Abstract Only

Restricted to Campus until



Algae harvested from various places such as the Great Wicomico River, the York River in Virginia, and Western Michigan University's Goldsworth Pond was analyzed for overall fatty acids content, for eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Fish oil is currently a major commercial source of polyunsaturated fatty acids, including nutritionally important EPA and DHA. It is desirable to obtain oil supplements from different sources other than fisheries. Algae could be an alternative source of these compounds. In this study two analytical methods: (1) solvent extraction followed by conversion to fatty acid methyl esters (FAMEs) and (2) FAMEs conversion in the whole biomass were tested comparing percentage yield of extractable FAMEs. Fatty acids, especially the polyunsaturated fatty acids, in the algae that were harvested from different locations were also analyzed to see if there was any seasonal or geographic effect on oil productivity. It was observed in the data that the production of EPA was ~2.2% (gEPA g-1 FAMEs) higher in the algae harvested in colder climate than warmer climate. Similarly, the DHA was ~1% (gDHA g-1FAMEs) higher in the algae harvested in colder climate than warmer climate. A study of the thermal stability of commercially sourced fatty acids (fish oil, oleic acid, and EPA) was performed. A series of temperature/time series experiments showed that there was ~10% loss in the total oil content during the first three days of analysis when the samples were stored at cold and ambient temperatures. After two weeks of storage at 50°C, the total oil content was reduced by ~35%, suggesting that the analysis of samples that have been exposed to elevated temperature will not be reliable.


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