General Prices: This Cafe Scientifique webinar will be held online via Zoom. Contact [email protected] to obtain Zoom link information.

The Science of Seaweeds: Genomes, Golden Tides, and The Green Lineage with Dr John Bothwell

This Cafe Scientifique webinar will be held online via Zoom. Contact [email protected] to obtain Zoom link information.

Seaweeds do for our coasts what trees do for our countryside: they provide shelter for wildlife, lock up nutrients for future generations, and act as barriers to protect ecosystems from the never-ending attrition of the winds and the waves. Unfortunately for seaweeds, they’re also largely invisible: the great kelp forests of the UK coastline are all offshore and underwater, so we never see them when we gaze out across any of our seas.

Seaweeds haven’t always been so undervalued: they were widely eaten in the UK’s coastal communities before the agricultural revolution and red, green, and brown seaweeds have formed a dietary staple the World over for more than a thousand years. Indeed, Europe’s relatively modest seaweed intake is put to shame by the many species that make up the limu of Hawaiian cookery and by the nori, wakame, kombu and hijiki of Japanese cuisine. More recently, of course, people have begun to wonder whether we can convert algae into biofuels (the jury’s still out on that one…)

But seaweeds are more than just a promising biomass resource; they’re an evolutionary tangle three billion years in the making, they’re the first organisms that are known to have become multicellular, and their ancestors were the ones that colonised the land half a billion years ago and gave rise to the land plants.

Dr. Bothwell is a Reader in Bioenergy in the Dept. of Biosciences, Durham University.

His DPhil in Biochemistry was awarded in 2000; between 2000-2007 he held postdoctoral research fellowships in Cambridge, Plymouth and Roscoff, taking a year off in 2002-2003 to play professional rugby. From 2009-2012, he held a Lectureship at Queen’s University Belfast and moved to Durham in 2013. His group was the first to sequence the genome of a green seaweed (Ulva compress) which is found all along the northeast’s coastline)