Algal BioSciences

Algal BioSciences at NUI Galway is led by Professor Dagmar Stengel (Head of Discipline in Botany and Plant Science) and brings together a number of full-time academic PIs at NUI Galway with research interest in algae, seaweed (macroalgae) and microalgae, as well as other aquatic organisms including cyanobacteria, seagrasses and lichens.

PIs in Algal BioSciences

Professor Dagmar Stengel 

Dr Zoë Popper

Dr Maria Tuohy

Expertise and interests range from algal ecology, ecophysiology to algal biotechnology

  • Application of algae (macro- and micro) in biotechnology and environmental monitoring
  • Applications of algal stress-physiology
  • Cultivation of macro- and microalgae under different conditions for optimised biomass production
  • Enhanced production and optimisation of primary and secondary metabolites and bioactives with industrial potential.
  • Sustainable seaweed exploitation
  • Heavy metals in algae of economic importance, and application of algae and lichens in biomonitoring
  • Climate change impacts and Ocean Acidification; mesocosm experiments
  • Invasive algae
  • Algal growth
  • Algal cell walls
  • Seagrass ecology and ecophysiology

Current funded projects include:

Assessing recent trends in nutrient inputs to estuarine waters and their ecological effect (EPA-STRIVE Postdoctoral Fellowship, Dr Sorcha Ni Longphuirt) 

Marine micro- and macroalgae as functional foods (Marine Institute’s Functional Foods Initiative – NutraMara, DAFM; PD Dr Freddy Guiheneuf, PhD student Matthias Schmid)

Iodine in commercially valuable Irish seaweeds: variability, pathways and implications for industrial applications (SFI Investigator project; PD Dr Udo Nitschke)

Optimisation and standardisation of phlorotannin profiles of commercially valuable seaweeds with food applications (Teagasc Walsh Fellowship, PhD student Dara Kirke)

Profiling and Optimising chemical composition of red Sea Vegetables for enhanced bioactive yields (FIRM Project, DAFM; PD Dr Elena Varela and MSc student Anna Gietl; Collaborators: UL)

SMART FOOD – Science Based ’Intelligent’/Functional and Medical Foods for Optimum Brain Health, Targeting Depression and Cognition (FIRM Project, DAFM; lead by Prof Stanton, Teagasc Moorepark; PhD student Justine Aussant)

Interactive impacts of climate change and invasive competitors on seagrass meadows on the Irish west coast (PhD student Pedro Beca Carretero)

Seaweed Resource Assessment (Cullen Fellowship: Marine Institute), Tom Rossiter (PhD student)

Marine Biotechnology ERA-Net NEPTUNA project: coordinated by Dagmar Stengel (Dr Freddy Guiheneuf)

Arsenic in marine macroalgae and implications for commercial uses (AsMARA; FIRM, Dr Jenny Ronan at Marine Institute, lead: Dr Evin McGovern).

Development of new technologies to assess natural seaweed beds in Ireland (Cullen PhD Fellowship)

Characterisation of algal cell wall polysaccharides (SFI RFP; PhD student Sandra Raimundo)

Algal polysaccharides and their pre-biotic potential (FIRM Project, DAFM; lead by Prof Ross, UCC; MSc student Charlotte O’Callaghan) 

Research in Algal BioSciences is supported by

Science Foundation Ireland; Teagasc; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; Enterprise Ireland; Horizon2020; Marine Institute; Environmental Protection Agency; Irish Research Council; National University of Ireland Galway.  

Selected recent publications (for full details see profiles of PIs):

Robertson RC, Gracia MR, O'Grady MN, Guihéneuf F, Stengel DB, Ross RP, Fitzgerald GF, Kerry JP, Stanton C. (2016). An assessment of the techno-functional and sensory properties of yoghurt fortified with a lipid extract from the microalga Pavlova lutheri. Inn.Food Sci. Emerging Technol. doi:10.1016/j.ifset.2016.03.017 

Nitschke U and Stengel DB. (2016). Quantification of iodine loss in edible Irish seaweeds during processing. J. Appl. Phycol., 10.1111/jpy.12268

Stengel DB, Connan S (2015) (Eds). Natural Products from Marine Algae. Methods in Molecular Biology Series. Springer. 

O’Dowd, C., Ceburnis, D, Ovadnevaite, J, Bialek, J, Stengel DB, et al. (2015) Connecting marine productivity to sea-spray via nanoscale biological processes: Phytoplankton Dance or Death Disco? Scientific Reports 5, 14883 doi:10.1038/srep14883

 Schmid, M., Guiheneuf, F. and Stengel, D.B. (2016). Evaluation of food grade solvents for lipid extraction and impact of storage temperature on fatty acid composition of edible seaweeds Laminaria digitata (Phaeophyceae) and Palmaria palmata (Rhodophyta). Food Chem. doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2016.03.123 

Ní Longphuirt S, O'Boyle S, Stengel DB (2015). Environmental response of an Irish estuary to changing land management practices. Science of the Total Environment, 521–522,388-399.

Guiheneuf, F and Stengel, DB (2015). Towards the biorefinery concept: interaction of light, temperature and nitrogen for optimizing the co-production of high-value compounds in Porphyridium purpureum. Algal Research 10,152–163. 

Nitschke U, Stengel DB (2014). A new HPLC method for the detection of iodine applied to natural samples of edible seaweeds and commercial seaweed food products. Food Chemistry 172, 326-334 doi: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2014.09.030.  

Schmid, M and Stengel, DB (2015). Intra-thallus differentiation of fatty acid and pigment profiles in some temperate Fucales and Laminariales. Journal of Phycology DOI: 10.1111/jpy.12268 

Higgins NF, Connan S and Stengel DB (2015). Factors influencing the distribution of coastal lichens Hydropunctaria maura and Wahlenbergiella mucosaMarine Ecology doi: 10.1111/maec.12239

Baer J, and Stengel, DB (2014). Can native epiphytes affect establishment success of the alien seaweed Sargassum muticum (Phaeophyceae)? Biology and Environment-Proceedings of The Royal Irish Academy, 114B: 41-52

Ashu-Ayem ER, Nitschke U, Monahan C, Chen J, Darby SB, Smith PD, O’Dowd CD, Stengel, DB,Venables DS (2012). Coastal iodine emissions: Part 1. Release of I2 by Laminaria digitata in chamber experiments. Environmental Science and Technology, DOI: 10.1021/es204534v.

Connan S and Stengel, DB (2011). Impacts of ambient salinity and copper on brown algae: 2. Interactive effects on phenolic pool and assessment of metal binding capacity of phlorotannin. Aquatic Toxicology: doi:10.1016/j.aquatox.2011.03.016.

Stengel DB, Connan S and Popper ZA (2011). Algal chemodiversity and bioactivity: Sources of natural variability and implications for commercial application, Biotechnology Advances: doi:10.1016/j.biotechadv.2011.05.016. 

Popper ZA, Michel G, Hervé C, Domozych DS., Willats, W.G.T., Tuohy MG, Kloareg B, Stengel DB (2011). Evolution and Diversity of Plant Cell Walls: From Algae to Flowering Plants. Annu Rev Plant Biol 62: doi: 10.1146/annurev-arplant-042110-103809. 

Domozych DS, Sørensen I, Popper ZA, Ochs J, Andreas A, Fangel JU, Pielach A, Sacks C, Brechka H, Willats WGT, Rose JKC. 2014. Pectin metabolism and assembly in the cell wall of the charophyte green alga Penium margaritaceumPlant Physiol165: 105–118. doi:

Domozych DS, Sørensen I, Sacks C, Brechka H, Andreas A, Fangel JU, Rose JKC, Willats WGT, Popper ZA. 2014. Disruption of the microtubule network alters cellulose deposition and causes major changes in pectin distribution in the cell wall of the green alga, Penium margaritaceumJournal of Experimental Botany65: 465–479. doi:10.1093/jxb/ert390.

Popper ZA and Tuohy MG. 2010. Beyond the green: understanding the evolutionary puzzle of plant and algal cell walls (invited update). Plant Physiol153: 373–383. doi:10.1104/pp.110.158055

Popper ZA, Fry SC. 2003. Primary cell wall composition of bryophytes and Charophytes. Annals of Botany91: 1–12. Cover page. doi:10.1093/aob/mcg013