Workshopping the algae industry forward
July 27, 2014
n an effort to propel the algae industry forward, the Algae Testbed Public Private Partnership (ATP3) offers a series of hands-on specialized workshops suited for participants from all aspects of the industry. “The workshops combine unique components of two leading research universities in the algae field in a very practical way to serve the needs of a developing industry,” said Dr. Jerry Brand, Director of UTEX Culture Collection of the Algae at the University of Texas at Austin and the ATP3 Education and Training program.
ATP3 workshops not only target topics that are pertinent to the algae community as a whole, but they can also be customized to suit a particular group or organization. Professionals, students and other interested individuals learn about an array of algae-related topics including culture maintenance, large-scale biomass production, downstream processing and productivity, and standardized analytical methods through intensive hands-on training during focused workshops.
“Our workshops are unique in that our participants don’t have to have an algae background,” said Dr. Milton Sommerfeld, Director of the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation (AzCATI) at Arizona State University. “Our team has such a long-term and broad range of experience that we are able to respond to diverse and in-depth questions in the classroom, in the lab or outside on the field site. “We expect every participant to not only learn something new in the classroom, but also develop new skill sets from the hands-on sessions.”
The ATP3 Education and Training team collectively represents more than 100 years of experience working with algae. This includes the fields of algal taxonomy, ecology, physiology, biochemistry, molecular biology and environmental engineering, in addition to laboratory and field cultivation, harvesting and processing of algae for biomass and bioproducts. The team is led by Drs. Jerry Brand from UTEX Culture Collection of Algae at the University of Texas at Austin, Schonna Manning, also from UTEX, and Milton Sommerfeld and Thomas Dempster, both from AzCATI.
The combined expertise and high-quality facilities at UTEX Culture Collection of Algae and at AzCATI provide an exceptional instructional team and learning environment for participants who enroll in the workshops. The facilities and instructional approach provide an environment conducive to hands-on activities that links theory to practice and a focus on the procedures and processes that are critical to working in the algae field.
“Participants get a chance to get their hands green throughout the workshops as more than half of the week-long courses involve hands-on practical activities,” said Dr. Schonna Manning who organizes and coordinates the analytical exercises carried out in the workshops.
The ATP3 quarterly workshops are useful to not only the one-time participant who wishes to focus on a specific topic but also to those who wish to have a more comprehensive perspective by participating in multiple workshops. Small classes (between 12 and 15 participants) offer individualized instruction and encourage networking among participants.
A notable feature of the workshops has been the degree of engagement and networking. The sharing of information, ideas and approaches takes place not only with the Education and Training instructors, but among the workshop participants as well. The level of interaction among participants has been an exceptional outcome of the workshops.
“Our workshop venues facilitate incredible learning and networking opportunities for the participants and instructors,” said Dr. Thomas Dempster, the Testbed Site Coordinator for ATP³. “Our participants each bring a unique perspective to the table while representing academia, industry and interested individuals.”
The workshops focus on critical aspects of establishing, maintaining and developing a viable algae research and development program. A primary focus has been on: isolation/selection and maintenance of algae cultures, cultivation methods/procedures (lab and outdoor), transition from lab to field cultivation, sampling procedures, field sample analysis, and laboratory biochemical analysis. Workshop topics include:
- Principles and Processes: Algae Culture Maintenance, Production and Downstream Processing;
- Algae Culture Management and Strain Selection;
- Routine Measurement and Biochemical Analysis of Microalgal Cultures;
- Taxonomy and Biochemistry of Microalgae with Commercial Potential (August 2014); and
- Large-Scale Algal Cultivation, Harvesting and Downstream Processing (November 2014).
ATP3 also uniquely offers customized workshops to meet the specific needs of individual groups and companies. Teachers, students or others who wish to enter the algae field or simply want to learn more about algae and their products or their role in the environment may also receive custom training from the ATP3 specialists.
Past workshops have attracted individuals from universities and companies around the world. Approximately two-thirds of the participants were from the U.S., with about half coming from academia and half from industry and government. Of the participants coming from academic institutions, almost half were educators and half were students.
ATP3 was established through a competitive grant from the U.S. Department of Energy and consists of a network of national algae testbeds operated by leading scientists, engineers and practitioners in the field. As part of this sponsored program, the ATP3 workshops were organized to provide educational and training necessary to advance the developing algae industry.