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Doctoral Student Explores Sea Vegetable Aquaculture
May 5, 2007
Nic Blouin, a doctoral student in UMaine’s School of Marine Sciences, is pursuing a ground-breaking research project focused on the reproductive biology of the red alga Porphyra umbilicalis – also known as nori to the sea vegetable gourmand. Working with UMaine marine science professor Susan Brawley, Blouin is taking a multifaceted approach to nori research, combining cutting-edge laboratory research with hands-on field trials that he hopes will jump-start a new economic engine in Maine: sea vegetable aquaculture.
Maine’s potential as a provider of sea vegetables has remained largely untapped, due at least in part to the average American’s lack of familiarity with the ocean garden.
“Sea vegetable aquaculture is a $6 billion industry worldwide. Nori alone is nearly $2 billion of that, and that comes entirely from Asia. Nori and other algae are high in protein. They’re also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. They’re a very healthful food; we’re just not used to eating them. Because there are so few people working on this in the U.S., and because there is so little known about its basic biology, you have to spread yourself around a little bit,” said Blouin, whose lab and field schedules combine to create a very demanding schedule. “I have projects going on both sides – in basic research and in economic development.”