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ESR17 Seaweed bioactives for livestock nutrition and methane mitigation

Monitoring drug levels through responsive hydrogel sensors

PhD project title

Seaweed bioactives for livestock nutrition and methane mitigation

Outline description, including interdisciplinary, intersectoral and international dimensions 

Intense farming practice has resulted in environmental and animal health issues. It is estimated that of the 15% of total GHG emissions that come from livestock, 44% is in the form of methane. Enteric fermentation from ruminants is considered the primary source of these methane emissions.  It has also led to reliance on the use of antibiotics in healthy animals as a routine to prevent infections or speed up their growth. However, this practice has been banned (Regulation (EC) No. 1831/2003) and the antibiotics replaced by zinc oxide, which the EU plan to ban in 2022. Seaweed-supplemented animal feeds have been shown to produce significant improvements in gastrointestinal (GI) health of livestock. They have also shown improved stress resistance, promotion of stronger immune systems, improved productivity, reduced GI tract pathogens, nitrogenous gases and odour emissions. Some recent animal feed studies that supplemented Asparagopsis taxiformis, a red seaweed, into animal diets have showed a significant reduction in methane by up to 80%. Other seaweeds, including brown seaweeds have shown promising methane reduction results in vitro. One of the major challenges of supplementing seaweeds in animal diets is the availability of biomass, given that globally there are almost 1.5 billion head of cattle. Therefore, to use whole seaweeds as a feed ingredient could lead to potential ecological problems. Currently, there is an estimated 25 million tons of seaweed is harvested globally each year for the hydrocolloids, biofertilisers and biostimulants industries. However, in the alginate industry some of these bioactives are undesirable, and are removed and discarded using toxic organic solvents. This studentship will investigate green separation methods primarily SCO2 to isolate compounds of interest prior to alginate extraction. It is anticipated the extracts produced from this Studentship will be tested in the SEASOLUTIONS projects. 

Key words/descriptors

Methane Mitigation, Animal nutrition, Seaweed bioactives.

Fit to CITI-GENS theme(s)

  • Information Technology,
  • Advanced Manufacturing,
  • Life Sciences
  • Creative Industries.

Supervisor Information



First Supervisor:        Dr Pamela Walsh, (Engineer)                             School: Chemistry & Chemical Engineering, QUB

Second Supervisor:   Dr Gary Sheldrake, (Organic Chemist)             School: Chemistry & Chemical Engineering, QUB

Third Supervisor:       Dr Marie Hayes                                                    Company: Teagasc

Note: The research will also involve Prof. Sharon Huws (IGFS) as QUB PI on SEASOLUTIONS grant at QUB.

Name of non-HEI partner(s)


Contribution of non-HEI partner(s) to the project:



Dr Maria Hayes is a Scientific Research Officer, Teagasc Food Research Centre, Ireland. She is overall PI on a 1.9 million-euro 3-year EU project (SEASOLUTIONS) funded by FACCE ERA-GAS on Seaweeds and seaweed ingredients to reduce enteric methane emissions from ruminants. Dr Hayes has published over 112 research articles and has supervised several PhD students.

There will be a short placement in Teagasc during the studentship. This project specifically aligns with SEASOLUTIONS EU project. The student will be developing extracts that will be tested in this project. In addition to the placement at Teagasc, the student will have the opportunity to join the bi-annual meetings, present their research at these meetings and participate the in the project workshop. SEASOLUTIONS is an EU funded project which started in April 2020. The project includes a consortium of partners from Norway, Germany, Canada, and Ireland. Other placement opportunities may be available depending on results and student progress via this consortium.    


Subject area

Marine Bioactive, Animal health, environmental pollution

Qasim's supervisors

Dr Ian Overton

School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences

Queen's University Belfast

Dr Matteo Manica