Microalgae, or phytoplankton, are microscopic, aquatic, photosynthetic organisms that are crucial to life on earth. It is estimated that close to 800,000 different species of microalgae exist, with about 50,000 having already been described. Along with contributing to roughly half of the available atmospheric oxygen, microalgae make up the base of the ocean’s food web providing necessary energy and nutrients to all the higher trophic levels.
Just like we need to eat a variety of foods to meet our nutritional needs, the animals we cultivate do too. As a food source, the diversity among microalgae means that different genera and species have different nutritional value and we use that to our advantage at Roger Williams University. To meet the nutritional needs of our animals we grow 7 different species of microalgae:
Chaetoceros muelleri (CCMP 1316)
Thalassiosira weissflogii (CCMP 1336)
Tisochrysis lutea (T-ISO; CCMP 1324)
Rhodomonas salina (CCMP 1319)
Pavlova pinguis (CCMP 609)
Tetraselmis spp. (CCMP 908)
Nannochloropsis oculata (CCMP 525)
To find out more about how we utilize our microalgae for specific needs check out our pages for the Marine Ornamentals program and the Shellfish Hatchery.
Our algae is grown primarily in batch culture. Our small, 1L cultures are scaled up to 20L carboys for both the Marine Ornamentals Program in the Wet Lab and the Shellfish Hatchery. From carboys algae is scaled up to 100L vessels in the Wet Lab and 200L kalwalls in the Shellfish Hatchery. Depending on demands we utilize semi-continuous culture methods in our 100L and 200L cultures. Unlike other facilities our small cultures are continuously on CO2 enriched air, which we have found to dramatically increase our production output as compared to static flasks that need to be swirled. All stages of our cultures are grown in a modified (Nitrogen supplemented) f/2 media under a 24:0, light:dark cycle.
Our research interests in microalgae production include optimizing media for microalgae growth, specifically the effects of nitrogen and phosphorous manipulation in the media. We are also interested in investigating the effects of media manipulation on fatty acid profiles of microalgae and the implications on larval fish development.