MU Connect issue 6 (page 18)

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Metropolitan Algal Repository and Supply established to advance microalgae research

Microalgae are single-celled photosynthetic organisms living in freshwater and marine environments that average only five micrometres in size. Although they are tiny and seem ordinary, they can make a significant impact on humankind and the environment. “Some microalgae species have high application value — they can, for example, be converted into biofuels. However, some of them, such as the red tide species, can cause serious ecological damage and huge economic losses to the aquaculture and capture fisheries industries. Therefore, microalgae analysis and utilisation are of great benefit to the environment, society and the economy,” says Prof. Fred Lee Wang-fat, Associate Dean of the School of Science and Technology (S&T) specialising in microalgae biology research.

Thus, in 2022, S&T established Hong Kong's first open-access microalgae collection and research centre, the Metropolitan Algal Repository and Supply (MARS), to further microalgae research in the Greater Bay Area (GBA) and Southeast Asia. MARS is well-equipped and performs various functions to promote microalgae development, including collecting microalgae samples regularly from the coastal areas of Hong Kong and the GBA for analysis and identification of their species and characteristics, and organising workshops, seminars and training to raise public awareness. It will also set up an online platform to disseminate microalgae-related information and research achievements as well as to provide distribution and deposition services of algal strains, so that researchers and relevant organisations will have easier access to microalgae resources.