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

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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.


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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

seaweeds and their extracts

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.


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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.


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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.

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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 Senior 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 Senior 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.

Saskia De Klerk
Dr Saskia de Klerk

Saskia is a Senior Lecturer in international business. Her areas of research include entreprenuership and innovative ecosystem development for seaweed, with an emphasis on cross-cultural management and capacity building.

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.

Martina Jelocnik
Dr Martina Jelocnik

Martina is an ARC DECRA Research Fellow. Her research on seaweed takes a One Health approach to veterinary microbiology through the control of infections in Australian livestock and aquaculture production.

Dr Peter Brooks
Dr Peter Brooks

Peter is a chemist with expertise in the analysis and isolation of bioactive compounds in seaweed. His research includes chromatographic and spectroscopic techniques and the quantitation of bioactive compounds from seaweed.

Scott Cummins
Professor Scott Cummins

Scott is a Professor of Molecular Biology and focuses his research on the molecular basis for natural product variation in seaweeds, with applications in the fields of ecology, aquaculture and health. Scott's multi-omics approach towards our research integrates genomics, transcriptomics, proteomic and metabolomics through the latest next-generation sequencing and mass spectrometry approaches.  

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

Latest seaweed news

Seaweed quadruples fish immunity, study finds
29 April

USC scientists have found they can quadruple the immune response of farmed fish by adding powdered seaweed to their diet.

Ex-soldier takes new path towards seaweed science
21 April

Working as an analytical chemist is a world away from the war zones of Afghanistan for former Australian Army infantryman David Heyne who received USC’s highest academic honour when he graduated earlier this month.

Seaweed scientist named Australian STEM superstar
3 December 2020

A USC scientist passionate about restoring seaweed forests and finding solutions to global problems has been named one of Australia’s official Superstars of STEM.

Become a citizen scientist

We’re assembling a squad of passionate citizen scientists to restore lost underwater forests on the iconic Sunshine Coast. Repairing damaged ecosystems is not only good for the environment, it’s a great way to boost your own well-being too.

Thank you very much for your interest – please complete the form below to join the squad!

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