Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research
Royal Netherlands
Institute for Sea Research

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PhD - lifecycle controls of seaweed 

Seaweed farming is a worldwide billion-dollar industry.  The cultivation in Europe is nonetheless still in its infancy. However, because it is considered one of the most environmentally benign types of aquaculture, there is a growing demand for European seaweed cultivation as well.  Seaweeds also have a broad utility range, since they can be cultivated for either food, feed, cosmetics, or pharmaceuticals. These qualities are increasing the interest for European seaweed-aquaculture and in particular the cultivation of kelps.

Movie about our seaweed work at NIOZ

Although the interest is growing in kelp-aquaculture, there is still a lot to learn about their life cycle. For example, the haploid gametophyte phase of the kelp’s haploid-diploid life cycle is very much understudied. These gametophytes are haploid and can vegetatively reproduce through fragmentation. This phase is also the part of a kelp’s life cycle where sexual reproduction between male and female gametophytes occurs. Needless to say, this understudied gametophyte phase is crucial to comprehend in order to ultimately control the entire life cycle of kelps.  

Microscopic photo of the development of three sporophytes growing out of a fertilized female gametophyte

The purpose of this PhD is to further our understanding in the life cycle controls of these kelps. In-depth studies are hereby made possible through the usage of gametophyte cultures of the species Saccharina latissima and Alaria esculenta. Varying the external growing factors like light, nutrients, and temperature can give us a better understanding into the triggers responsible for the lifecycle transitions within kelps.

Underwater photo of a grid covered with Saccharina latissima kelps (property of Hortimare BV)