Small but mighty aquatic species in focus at conference

Hidden underwater plants including microalgae, seaweed and seagrass are the foundation of aquatic ecosystems like estuaries. The passionate community of scientists who study these small but mighty species recently came together at an international conference in Perth.

Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (DWER) Aquatic Science team members who work on microalgae and seagrass ecology attended the conference and presented on topics including genetic research and harmful algal blooms.

Staff from the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation’s Aquatic Science Branch attended and helped to organise the conference.

“This is the first time in 12 years that the Australasian Society for Phycology and Aquatic Botany Conference has been held in Boorloo (Perth),” Frances D’Souza, conference organising committee member and scientist at DWER, said

“Microalgae, while only visible under the microscope, form the basis of many food webs in aquatic ecosystems,

“Our team monitors microalgae, as well as macroalgae and seagrass in our waterways, in order to understand how ecosystems are responding to environmental pressures and change.

“While algae are naturally occurring and an important part of aquatic ecosystems, certain species can be harmful to animal or human health, so this ongoing monitoring is very important to inform public health advice.

“At the conference we networked with our colleagues in government, universities and consulting firms from across Australia and New Zealand. This helps us to keep abreast of the latest science, create partnerships that help us maximise our limited resources and ensure our work is of the highest standard as we manage the health of our waterways.

“It is an exciting time for research in this field, given advancing technologies are helping us understand the link between genetics and toxicity of algal species. It is also exciting because we are increasingly recognising the major role of aquatic plants and especially seagrasses in addressing climate change as they store large quantities of carbon.”

Learn more about macroalgae (or seaweeds), microalgae (or phytoplankton) and seagrass on DWER’s estuaries website.