COST Action FA1406 (2015-2019)

Mid-term evaluation of Phycomorph

Summary assessment of progress (external, non-European review):

Seaweed aquaculture is rapidly becoming a major world industry. The Action is designed around 4 scientific tasks towards advancing knowledge on seaweed growth and development. These are designed to gain understanding on: 1. Reproductive efficiency; 2. Mechanisms of fertilisation and embryogenesis; 3. Adult growth; 4. Developing technical tools to drive 1-3.

The stated aims of the Action can be summarised in four points. Paraphrased, they involve: ‘deploying community’, ‘capacity building’, ‘addressing specific issues related to the development of macroalgae’ and ‘the potential of outputs to be transferred to the aquaculture sector’. As stated in the progress report, the main achievements thus far are concerned with scientific outputs. These have been impressive for the first two years of an action, with 27 papers and 25 book chapters documented. The book produced is specifically targeted to protocols of seaweed aquaculture production. A special issue in press of the relevant journal Botanica Marina and additions contributed 16 of the papers.

Of 23 sub-Task deliverables listed in the MoU, the progress report documents 4 as ‘achieved’, and 14 as ‘partially achieved’. All tasks considered ‘partially achieved’ include at least one scientifically significant publication on the topic.

Relevant to ‘deploying community’ the Action has been very successful, with a continually growing membership of different countries. This has now reached a total of 25 countries, including those pending or in progress. There have been 19 exchanges of scientists between countries (STSMs), which is a good result for the first two years of the Action. The Action is thus working very well on its primary objective of “unifying a scattered European research landscape” on the topic.

Of 18 secondary objectives 6 are considered achieved, 7 partially achieved and 4 not achieved at month 24. There has been good progress on improving multi-disciplinary research, uniting various biologists and chemists to work on these goals (2nday objectives 7/8). The topic of producing protocols for seaweed production is well under way, with a forthcoming book on the topic. Some of the 2ndary objectives which are considered not yet achieved have common funding applications pending, intended to lead to expected results.

This Action is defined by an extremely genetically diverse group of organisms, with the main objective to bring together a continent-wide team (with some now outside Europe) working with many critical aspects relevant to production in aquaculture. This is truly multi-disciplinary, involving not only biology and chemistry, but also many fields of biology including developmental and morphogenetic, genetic and genomic, culture and aquaculture protocols, ecology and ecophysiology, as well as links with other organisms (bacterial interactions, biofilms and biofouling).

The project members are producing cutting-edge research in specific areas of the Action, and can indeed be considered to have reached the intermediate objective of boosting the scientific community in this range of fields. The next step is stated as dissemination of findings to the seaweed aquaculture sector, which is beginning with the Applied Phycology (ISAP) meeting in June 2017.