An exocytic seaweed grows to a very large size.
Credit: Jason Sturgess, Australian Marine Park.
But the process of exocyting seaweeds from seaweeds has become a science of its own, as scientists are exploring how the plants can be used in seaweed production.
“It is an interesting field of study in that there are many different methods for growing seaweeds that have different characteristics, and they are all trying to grow their own seaweed,” Dr Sturges said.
“So, I think it’s great that seaweed is such a natural substrate, and seaweed has a really interesting history.”
The seaweed plant is one of the most diverse plant groups on the planet, and scientists know that it can grow in a wide range of conditions.
“I think what we are finding is that we can grow these seaweeds in a number of different ways,” Dr Swartz said.
“They can be cultivated in a variety of ways.
They can be harvested from seaweed beds.
They grow very, very fast.
They are really adaptable to a variety and variety of conditions.”
But what exactly does a seaweed grow from?
“I would say there are three basic characteristics of seaweeds,” Dr Dr Swartes said, “they have a structure, they have a colour, and the plant itself.”
“They all have the same structure,” Dr Schreiber added.
“The structure is the way that it grows, and that’s the colour, the shape, the structure,” she said.
But Dr Swarts is more interested in the structure of the plant, and how it changes over time.
“What I find interesting about seaweeds is that, over time, the plant can actually change, and it can evolve in such a way that is beneficial for the environment, and then, eventually, it can be released into the environment,” Dr Blundell said.
It is this evolutionary process that has led to the development of an array of different seaweed varieties that are grown on different sites in Australia.
“So, one of those things is, what do you grow that grows to be a different colour?
That is a little bit like that,” Dr Brinkmann said.
The other two aspects are what’s inside the plant and what it looks like.
“You can get different types of colours, different shapes,” Dr Cliffe said.
Dr Schreibers lab is one place where scientists are studying how the plant behaves under different conditions.
For example, Dr Swarten’s research team is looking at the seaweed’s ability to absorb carbon dioxide, which is a key component of photosynthesis in plants.
“We’re interested in seeing what the seaweeds can do, so we are interested in what the different forms of the seawards absorb,” Dr Flinn said.
They also want to know what happens to the seaward’s shape over time as it is harvested, as well as how the water it grows in changes.
“This is an area where we are getting really good data,” Dr Schwartz said.
For the past two years, Dr Schrenber has been working with a group of Australian researchers, led by Professor Andrew Bickford, to figure out how to best use seaweed to make seaweed paste.
“If you look at the shape of the plants, it’s pretty straight forward,” Dr Knutson said.
You can just take the shape and you can get a lot of different colours out of the shape.
For example, you can have seaweed that has this nice straight shape, and you have this weirdish shape that can be pretty useful for things like cooking,” Dr Sclare said.
So, what can you do with it?”
So we have a lot more fun with it,” Dr Fettig said.
One of the things we’re trying to do with the seawells is make them edible.”
There’s a number that are edible, and we want to figure what is the best way to do that,” Professor Flinn added.
The scientists are looking at making a variety that can actually be used as a food, as an ingredient in a dish, or as a biofuel.”
One of our primary goals is to try and figure out if we can actually grow a bio-fuel crop on the plants and actually use it as a fuel source,” Dr Haines said.”
And then, we also want a way to convert them to edible seaweed, because if you do a lot, it actually tastes good, and if you use the seawed seaweed as a cooking ingredient, you get an edible product.
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