Why are we studying algae and their relationship with microbes?
Globally, algal aquaculture is developing rapidly and is a multi-billion dollar industry employing millions of people. As any friend of Asian cuisine knows, algae are an important and healthy source of food that is growing in popularity, but we use algae also in many other industries. In the chemical and pharmaceutical industries algae serve as fertilizers, soil conditioners and for wastewater treatment. The energy industry has been developing biofuels from both microalgae and seaweeds and scientists from the University of Konstanz now even suggest their use as a crude oil substitute. Algae are also popular ingredients in the cosmetics industry too.
But like all farmed crops, it is important to know what algae need in order to flourish, and to understand and control their diseases and pests. The single biggest biological challenge in the development of algal aquaculture is to understand and then control both beneficial and harmful microbes – the microbial flora or algal microbiome. Some bacteria control the development of algae, others are indispensable for their survival, whilst pathogens may cause devastating diseases, the impact of which worsens with the intensification of aquaculture practices. This is why we must study algae and their microbiome.
The main aims of ALFF research are to…
- Identify, classify and utilise naturally occurring algal symbionts and pathogens
- Tackle inter-and intra-species signalling and chemical ecology in aquaculture, the natural environment and simplified systems
- Harness state of the art genomics, molecular and biochemical techniques to characterise these interactions
Our research aims to support the development of superior mass algal cultivation and bio-control strategies.