Credit: Paul South/Rossella Nicolai

Posted on 14 September 2021

Seaweed biodiversity study underway on Marlborough Sounds marine farms

Early one morning in August, before the latest lockdown, a couple of seaweed scientists visited marine farms in the Marlborough Sounds to collect seaweed samples.

Paul South is an ecologist who specialises in seaweed biodiversity, and Rossella Nicolai is an aquaculture technician. Both from Cawthron Institute, they lead an 18-month-long seaweed biodiversity study on marine farms, as part of our Seaweed sun defence project.

On this recent fieldtrip, they measured and collected seaweed samples from the marine farms to understand what seaweed species are present and how much of them there is.

Paul checking out the seaweed. Credit: Rossella Nicolai

Led by Mike Packer and Tom Wheeler (both from Cawthron), our Seaweed sun defence project is investigating whether Aotearoa New Zealand seaweeds can be used in environmentally friendly and innovative sun care products.

Rossella collecting seaweed samples. Credit: Paul South

Collaboration is essential to the success of this Innovation Fund project, and we have partnered with Wakatū Incorporation and SRW Laboratories Ltd. to identify which species are best to develop for sunscreen protection.

For this stage of the project, Wakatū Incorporation are supplying the seaweed biomass and helping carry out the biodiversity study on their marine farms, covering Stewart Island to the Marlborough Sounds. This Marlborough Sounds trip was facilitated by Dean Higgins and Greg Smith from Kono New Zealand, part of Wakatū Incorporation.

Early morning on the marine farm in the beautiful Marlborough Sounds. Credit: Rossella Nicolai.

There are 3 main groups of seaweeds (often referred to as macroalgae): green, red, and brown, all of which are farmed or harvested in some manner. Credit: Rossella Nicolai

Learn more about Aotearoa New Zealand’s seaweed sector

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