Deer Creek Reservoir in Utah has a history of high algae concentrations. Despite recent nutrient reduction efforts, seasonal algae continue to present problems. Cost effective, accurate, and comprehensive monitoring is important to understand the reservoir processes driving this problem and characterizing the algae spatial and temporal distributions are an important part of this effort. Current laboratory methods for accurately measuring algae are expensive and time consuming and are based on water samples taken in the field and transported to the laboratory. This approach only provides data for relatively few point samples because of the time and expense of sample collection and analysis. These relatively few samples do not describe the complex spatial and temporal trends in the algal data. Algae exhibit non-uniform distributions, especially in the vertical direction. In situ probes are able to measure chlorophyll-a and provide a less expensive measuring alternative than laboratory methods. These probes provide relatively quick, high resolution vertical profile measurements, which allows for more comprehensive horizontal and temporal sampling. To have confidence in the probe data, good correlations between in situ chlorophyll-a measurements and laboratory algae or chlorophyll measurements are important, but these correlations can be reservoir and time dependant as reservoir conditions change. Therefore, they must be developed for each study site. This study reports on efforts at Deer Creek Reservoir to develop these correlations and provide a general description of the dynamic reservoir algal processes. I found that chlorophyll-a is weakly correlated to most algae species in the reservoir. However, it correlated well with total phytoplankton biovolume and the dominant algal species, which for this study was the diatom. Variations in correlation strength among the several algae species was assumed to most likely be affected by environmental factors, sample methods, algae species diversity, and the accuracy of the optical chlorophyll-a sensor. The data analysis indicate that the field methods used to obtain laboratory samples may have been a significant source of error because of the difficulty of matching the location of a probe measurement to the location of a sample. Field samples were not taken at the same depths as probe measurements and field samples from two locations were either mixed before laboratory analysis or the sample was a composite over a 2-meter range. Based on my observations, I have made several recommendations to improve the accuracy of the correlation between algae and chlorophyll-a.



College and Department

Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology; Civil and Environmental Engineering



Date Submitted


Document Type





Ryan Stephens, algae, chlorophyll, optical sensor, phytoplankton, Deer Creek