Seaweed Research Group - University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

Accessibility links

Seaweed Research Group

Diverse experts. Common goals.

Vision

The USC Seaweed Research Group improves environmental, economic and social outcomes through the production of world-class seaweed research and development.

The group of leading experts helps communities, governments and businesses recognise opportunities to develop and cultivate seaweed as a resource that is good for the economy, the environment and communities everywhere.

Made up of more than 20 researchers, academics, students and technical staff, the group are unique for their multi-disciplinary approach to seaweed research.

The Seaweed Research Group integrates diverse perspectives into their work from discipline areas such as marine science, aquaculture, molecular biology, ecology, business, health and biomedical science, social science and innovation to ensure the best-possible outcomes.

Scuba diver looking at seaweed in ocean

Research focus areas

Seaweed is a high-yield crop, with productivity levels as high as dense terrestrial vegetation. It is the largest aquaculture crop in the world with more than 25 million tonnes of seaweed produced per annum, which is steadily increasing at a rate of 8 percent per year and represents a $US7 billion dollar aquaculture industry.

The versatility of seaweed, and diversity of its uses, is why a multi-faceted approach is so important to the Seaweed Research Group. In addition to seaweed being an important food source for a growing global population, there is also massive scope to increase the commercial side of the industry and to create positive environmental change at a grand scale.

Seaweed as a food source

Seaweed filters out trace minerals from the ocean and is high in elements like iodine, potassium, magnesium, zinc and iron.


READ MORE

Rich in vitamins, such as Vitamins A, B2, B12 and C, and naturally high in protein, fibre and essential fatty acids, seaweed contributes to daily nutritional requirements and sustainable healthy diets. Antioxidant and bioactive compounds found in seaweed have great potential to provide health benefits. It can be eaten in many ways, as well as used to produce low sodium salt and nutraceuticals.

Seaweed and cosmetics

seaweed as an ingrediEnt

Seaweeds and their extracts have many different applications, from food products to gelling agents, as soil fertilisers and in livestock
feeds, as bioenergy, and
for functional ingredients
in nutraceuticals or cosmetics.


READ MORE

Because of the unique gelling agents that can be extracted, in products such as ice cream and toothpaste, Carrageenan is used as a thickening agent. Agar is used as a binding or gelling agent for foods and is an alternative to gelatine. It is used in cosmetics as an astringent and firming agent. The SRG researchers are investigating ways to broaden the commercial applications of seaweeds and their biologically active extracts.

seaweed as an environmental champion

Seaweed can play a vital role in helping to reverse the effects of water pollution, loss of biodiversity, and even significantly decrease emissions of greenhouse gases from agriculture.


READ MORE

Seaweeds form vast underwater forests that support coastal biodiversity and fisheries. Seaweeds sequester carbon and deacidify water. They also extract nitrogen from water and providing a natural method for the
bioremediation of wastewater. If given as a supplement, seaweed helps reduce the microbes in the cows’ stomachs that cause them to burp methane when they eat. If Australia could grow enough of the seaweed for every cow, the country could cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent.

Cow

seaweed for wellbeing

Marine seaweeds have been shown to have bio-active compounds with antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties.

READ MORE

Seaweed could offer many potential health benefits and alternatives to help combat health-related conditions and improve wellbeing. In terms of individual and community wellbeing, the Seaweed Research Group is also developing citizen scientists and outreach programs for our communities.
There is more work to be done in this area but the group's work helps drive awareness and global recognition of what an important role seaweed can play in the health and wellbeing of the planet and its inhabitants.

Key members

Professor Nick Paul

Nick is a Professor of Marine Science and leads applied research and development on seaweed and algae for new product development, based upon a platform of sustainable production.

Alex Campbell
Dr Alexandra Campbell

Alex is a Lecturer in BioScience and an award-winning marine ecologist who combines field ecology with environmental microbiology, natural products chemistry and environmental science.

Libby Swanpepoel
Dr Libby Swanepoel

Libby is a Lecturer in Nutrition and Dietetics whose research sees her working across food systems for global development. Libby currently has projects across the Asia-Pacific region, including Kiribati, Samoa and Solomon Islands.

Min Zhao
Dr Min Zhao

Min’s seaweed research focuses on bioinformatics and genomics with high-throughput integration of multiple dimensional data, focussing on the biosynthetic pathways of seaweed and industry-facing genomic browsers.

Dawn Birch
Associate Professor Dawn Birch

Dawn is a consumer researcher with a specific interest in local food and sustainable seafood. Her areas of research expertise include seaweed and seafood consumption, food waste, and food related lifestyle.

Scott Cummins
Associate Professor Scott Cummins

Scott’s research interests are focused on molecular biology with seaweed applications in the fields of aquaculture, ecology and health.

Contact us

For more information or general enquiries regarding seaweed research at USC, please contact Professor Nick Paul on +61 7 5459 4533 or npaul@usc.edu.au

To contact key members directly, visit their page by clicking on their profile.

For any media enquiries, please contact Janelle Kirkland on +61 7 5459 4553 or jkirklan@usc.edu.au

Seaweed news

USC seaweed science to feature in national doco

Seaweed science at USC is set make a splash on screens across the country today, on an ABC documentary that explores positive solutions to climate change.

Seaweed prepared to eat
More seaweed on menu as snacks drive consumption

Australians are eating more seaweed, and a study from the University of the Sunshine Coast has found that crackers and sushi are slowly turning the tide.

Seaweed for fish

By adding a pinch of seaweed to fish food, a PhD candidate from the University of the Sunshine Coast is getting closer to finding alternatives to antibiotic use in aquaculture.

Seaweed science behind ‘Moreton Bae’ brew

Scientists from USC are hoping a beer brewed with “sea lettuce” from Moreton Bay will drive new interest in seaweed as a nutritious, tasty and locally-grown resource.

Nick Paul And Asparagopsis
Burp-free cow feed drives seaweed science at USC

A puffy pink seaweed that can stop cows from burping out methane is being primed for mass farming by USC researchers.

Graduate Steele Ford working with seaweed at Bribie Island
D’Aguilar graduate studies science of seaweed

With his arms deep in a tub of locally-grown seaweed at the Bribie Island Research Centre, Steele Ford’s job is as hands-on as his recently-completed USC Bachelor of Environmental Science. And that’s just the way he likes it.

Nick And Valentine behind plate of seaweed

Join our team

Natural variation in bromoform biosynthesis

Join our team on a scholarship as a PhD student to investigate the unique species of red seaweed that helps suppress methane production in livestock.

Seaweed in ocean
Restorative aquaculture

We have two fully funded positions available for outstanding PhD candidates, who will work towards evaluating the potential of restorative aquaculture to reverse human impacts on coastal marine environments.