Savvy students organise their own seaweed science lesson | UniSC | University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Savvy students organise their own seaweed science lesson

Suncoast Christian College students have sampled the science of seaweed as a food source after asking a USC nutrition expert to visit during National Science Week (14-22 August).

USC Senior Lecturer in Nutrition and Dietetics Dr Libby Swanepoel said she had been invited directly by a group of Year 12 STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) students at the college, and leapt at the chance to nurture their interest and initiative.

“Seaweed may not be something we considered 20 years ago as a food, but it’s pretty normal for even a little child to be gnawing on a sushi roll these days,” Dr Swanepoel said.

“As a crop, seaweed only needs the ocean and the sun to grow, and it is full of nutrients and minerals.”

Dr Swanepoel said her own university science studies had gravitated towards nutrition due to her love of food, and seaweed had increasingly become a topic of interest due to its nutritional, cultural, and economic benefits.

Now working as a lecturer and researcher in the Seaweed Research Group at USC, she has personally helped communities in the Pacific region build livelihoods around seaweed farming, and seen first-hand the joy that came to them from social engagement, improvements in health and nutrition and financial independence.

“A nutrition scientist’s work can inform everything from sustainable production to global food security. We call this applied science because it is being used to improve people’s lives as well as the world around us,” she said.

Year 12 student Annaleese Kastrissios-Stewart, who invited Dr Swanepoel to the college and arranged the invitations, said she and her classmates wanted to inspire younger students to explore the sciences.

“We thought that having a USC researcher come in to talk about the real-life applications of science would be something that would really inspire everyone,” Annaleese said.

“I heard earlier in the year about how cows were being fed seaweed to reduce methane production. It seemed to be one of those creative solutions to an ongoing problem and we thought that was an interesting avenue to pursue.”

Annaleese, who is planning a career in medicine, said she finds “every aspect” of science interesting.

“I love that there are so many avenues to explore. I enjoy the intellectual challenge and the opportunities to explore and discover new things,” she said.

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