Laboratory Awards Funds for Seaweed, Seagrass Research


Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences announced today that it selected six organizations across the United States to receive $100,000 in USDA funding to pursue discoveries into applied benefits of seaweeds and seagrasses. Each group will use the funds to explore how science-based agricultural solutions can support healthy economies and the environment.

The six pilot studies support priority research areas outlined by the U.S. Congress. These include reducing ocean acidity, creating sustainable materials for the agriculture industry, and developing innovative commercial products.

“Seaweeds and seagrasses represent an amazing opportunity to restore marine ecosystems while developing an ethically and ecologically responsible sector that creates new jobs and revenue streams for working waterfronts,” said Nichole Price, a senior research scientist at Bigelow Laboratory. “The funds will enable six exciting new efforts to fill critical knowledge gaps, relieve bottlenecks in industry growth, and capitalize on emergent products and opportunities.”

Seagrasses and seaweeds are an integral part of marine food webs and ecosystems, and they play important roles in carbon and nitrogen cycles. They also have numerous environmental benefits when used for sustainable agriculture. Research has shown they can improve water conditions for farming shellfish and that including small amounts of certain seaweed in livestock feed can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the animals.

The new studies will explore these benefits and how to apply them. The results will be integral to an interagency report to Congress that the USDA has requested Bigelow Laboratory create. The document will outline strengths of seagrass and seaweed use in U.S. industries and highlight opportunities for future efforts. It will also cover critical issues, such as methods to find the best species for specific applications and the need to develop solutions that can scale from small farms to large industrial operations.

"The partnership with Bigelow Laboratory bolsters our efforts with a great deal of knowledge, experience, expertise, and established connections with seaweed and seagrass professionals in the public and private sectors,” said Caird Rexroad, USDA ARS National Program Leader for Aquaculture. "These assets are essential to building the collaborative approach needed to understand the impacts of expanding these industries on our environment and our economy."

The USDA chose Bigelow Laboratory to select and allocate the federal funds through the laboratory’s Center for Seafood Solutions, which works with industry and government partners to support sustainable seafood and inform policy. Price said this new effort is a chance to highlight the strength of collaborative interagency, industry, and interdisciplinary research.

The awarded projects, lead investigators, and organizations are:

  • “Carbon Capture and Deacidification by Marine Seaweeds” led by Greggory Rorrer at Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon
  • “Use Of Seaweed to Protect Shellfish Farming From Ocean Acidification” led by Loretta Roberson at Marine Biological Laboratory, Falmouth, Massachusetts
  • “Evaluate the Potential Ocean Acidification Mitigation Effects From Sugar Kelp Growth” led by Hongjie Wang at University of Rhode Island, South Kingstown, Road Island
  • “Leveraging the Sustainability of Macrocystis Pyrifera as a Feedstock to Produce Ingredients for Food, Animal, And Industrial Applications” led by Juliana Leite Nobrega de Moura Bell at University of California, Davis, Irving, California
  • “Offshore Platform-based Macroalgae Production” led by Kent Satterlee Gulf of Offshore Research, Mandeville, Louisiana
  • “Bull Kelp Farm Improvements to Enable Scaling of Innovative Food Products”led by Julie Decker at Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation, Anchorage, Alaska