I’m always a bit flighty when the children call me to join them in the ocean. Our waters around Robe are pristine, and usually sparkle a brilliant azure, but they deserve their icy reputation. I usually succumb (eventually) but even in the height of summer, a wetsuit is still, for this Queenslander, a necessity.
A much more comfortable occupation is to meander along the shoreline. We have spotted fairy penguins hiding in their sandstone caverns, and the rockpools revealed by the low tide are home to the wonderful, shy sea anemone, little crabs and schools of tiny fish darting for cover.
What we observe, though, is the tiniest fragment of the astonishing diversity of this coastline. The region is home to one of the most diverse populations of seaweed in the world, and genetically one of the purest.
Last year, I had the privilege of travelling to Flinders University in Adelaide to meet Professor Wei Zhang, Director of the Flinders University Centre for Marine Bioproducts Development. His research reveals a range of potential applications for compounds from this seaweed, to benefit human health. Of particular interest are anti-viral and anti-inflammatory benefits, as well as cancer-fighting properties and a broad range of commercial and food processing applications.
The road to developing medical-grade treatments from any of these compounds is long, arduous and expensive. I wonder, though, if there is room for the application of this knowledge to benefit us through the simplest and oldest of means: our food.
A quick update on my corn from dear friends, who have planted my corn in their beautiful Penola soil. The plants are growing strong and true, despite heavy rain and strong winds over the past weeks.
See, for example Lorbeer, A.J., Tham, R., and Zhang, W. “Potential products from the highly diverse and endemic macroalgae of Southern Australia and pathways for their sustainable production”, J Appl. Phycol, (2013), 25: 717-732 and Alghazwi, M., Kan, Y.Q, Zhang, W., Gai, W.P., Garson, M.J. and Smid, S. “Neuroprotective activities of natural products from marine macroalgae during 1999-2015”, J. Appl. Phycol, DOI 10.1007/s10811-016-0908-2