Lake Nakuru is located in the Rift Valley Province of Kenya, situated inside the Lake Nakuru National Park near the city of Nakuru. It may be best known for its large population of lesser flamingos (Phoeniconiais minor), at times reaching one million birds, who feed on the blue-green algae (Spirulina platenis) that thrives in the alkaline lake. Lake Nakuru has a fragile ecosystem, susceptible to climatic and human activities. During only 3 months of 1993, tens of thousands of flamingos died during a drought period and in the year 2000, 40,000 flamingos were reported dead at Nakuru National Park. Peculiar behavior, such as disorientation and a lack of mobility, were also observed. Flamingos have not only been dying at Lake Nakuru, but changing their migratory habits. Many have left Lake Nakuru, never to return. In this module, you will have the opportunity to explore reasons why the flamingos might be dying in Lake Nakuru Park. As is the case for many complex problems, addressing this question requires both the approach and the tools used by analytical chemists. In the process of thinking about the problem of the Lake Nakuru flamingos, you will have the chance to apply knowledge you have gained in your chemistry coursework and to learn in greater detail important concepts related to modern chemical analysis.
Photo of Lake Nakuru courtesy of Dr. Terry Master, Professor of Biology at East Stroudsburg University
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