Professor Dirk Zeller, the director of Sea Around Us – Indian Ocean, recently hosted Harvard University professor Christopher Golden and his post-doctoral researchers, Dr. Jessica Zamborain-Mason and Dr. Laura Elsler. This collaborative effort, backed by a 2023 University of Western Australia Research Collaboration Award, encompassed a week of insightful events designed to deepen joint efforts and advance research. The itinerary included a welcoming meet and greet, a master class workshop, and a public lecture.
Dr. Golden is renowned for his expertise in Nutrition and Planetary Health and has driven the construction of the Aquatic Food Composition Database (AFCD), whose taxonomic information was standardized according to our partners’ FishBase and SeaLifeBase taxonomic tables. This is a comprehensive resource that encompasses nutritional profiles spanning a diverse range of aquatic foods. From squid to oysters, from sardines to sharks and aquatic mammals, this database assumes a pivotal role in addressing multifaceted challenges such as food and nutritional security in the context of overfishing, climate change, and the degradation of marine ecosystems.
The primary objective of this collaboration is to harness the power of the AFCD in synergy with the fisheries data work of the Sea Around Us – Indian Ocean.
One of the highlights was Dr. Golden’s public lecture hosted by the Oceans Institute at UWA. He shared his team’s remarkable journey, which began with the exploration of bush foods in Madagascar but has now evolved into a global effort to understand the vital role played by fisheries in providing essential micronutrients to local communities. This shift in focus has led to innovative research and the establishment of the world’s largest artificial reef off the coast of Madagascar in partnership with Reef Doctor.
The lecture also delved into findings from Dr. Golden’s Nature paper titled “Aquatic Foods to Nourish Nations.” Despite the time constraints of a one-hour lecture, he managed to provide a comprehensive and profound understanding of his work, which harmoniously complemented the workshop conducted two days later.
The full-day workshop, held at UWA’s Forrest Hall with the support of the Forrest Research Foundation, brought together a diverse group of researchers from universities, government agencies, and non-profit organizations. Dr Jessica Zamborain-Mason led the workshop, offering insights into over 15 ongoing projects, including topics like nutritional overfishing, aquaculture sustainability, and seaweed’s nutritional value.
Participants were introduced to the AFCD’s free access approach and its functions, leading to dynamic discussions and brainstorming sessions. The collaborative spirit that emerged during these discussions showcased the database’s potential for various research endeavours, including aquaculture feeds, blue carbon sequestration, and refining stock status analyses to predict future nutritional deficiencies.
Overall, this visit was a significant milestone, strengthening the collaborative effort between the Sea Around Us – Indian Ocean at UWA and Harvard University. It provided researchers with the opportunity to engage in a captivating public lecture and a productive workshop whilst providing an invaluable opportunity to work towards developing further research projects.