A Key Organism in the Climate Solution

Algae, an unsuspecting and relatively simple organism on earth, could be the solution to several global challenges, including helping solve growing food demands, producing fuel to energize worldwide logistics, and even offsetting rising carbon emissions. The potential for microalgae to be an organism that could lock within its genes the solution to many contemporary issues has been a subject of research for Associate Professor of Biology Kourosh Salehi-Ashtiani for some 14 years.

His group launched a large algal genome-sequencing project and found that some algae emit a gas called dimethyl sulfide (DMS), which could help offset the greenhouse effect of carbon emissions. DMS, in some ways, has the opposite effect on the  environment than CO2. As a sulfur-containing gas, the algae-emitted gas is known as a “climate cooling gas” that can produce clouds and cool temperatures.

This discovery, combined with the relative ease of growth, and low resource demands of microalgae, could be used to create “carbon offset farms,” allowing industrial countries to grow these microorganisms en masse as a way to reduce their emissions.