Bioprospecting and directed evolution of microalgae from Bonaire


Bioprospecting and directed evolution of microalgae from Bonaire

Thermo-tolerant microalgae can contribute to a reduction in cooling requirements of outdoor microalgal cultivation systems on Bonaire. In this project bioprospecting of Bonairean microalgae will be followed by strain isolation, characterization and selection. Directed evolution will be used to increase the temperature tolerance of the strain.

Problem formulation and aim

Sustainable production of microalgae is best done at locations which offer high solar irradiance, constant climatological conditions and seawater availability. The Dutch Caribbean Island Bonaire offers these conditions. However, when growing microalgae in outdoor photobioreactors in warm regions under high light intensities, active cooling is required to prevent overheating of the systems. Cooling is energy intensive and expensive. Therefore the focus of this NWO project is to reduce the cooling requirements of outdoor microalgae cultivation systems. This will be performed through selection and optimisation of high-temperature tolerant microalgae strains.


Bioprospecting, selection,  optimization and characterization of the strains will be done in this project Local water samples are taken from Bonaire at locations assumed to contain species which are already adapted to temperatures of approximately 35 oC. Strain selection will be initially done based on growth rate in a high temperature environment. Species which meet the selection criteria will be isolated and identified by performing a 16/18s rDNA analysis combined with a morphological analysis. The chemical composition and growth characteristics of these strains will be determined and based on these results, one strain will be selected for further research. We aim at developing strains which are able to cope with the temperatures found in photobioreactors running outdoors in Bonaire, with minimal cooling. For this reason, these temperatures will be considered as target for optimisation and will be simulated at lab scale. Directed evolution will be performed in lab-scale photobioreactors using stringent growth conditions to further enhance the temperature tolerance of the strain. To gain insight in the mechanism behind temperature tolerance, the evolved microalgae will be studied. Genomic, metabolomic and cell physiology methods are considered for this purpose.

During the final phase of the project a pilot scale cultivation will be performed on Bonaire with the newly acquired temperature tolerant strain and compared to the parental strain.

Thesis projects

There are different topics available for BSc or MSc thesis within the project! If you are interested, please feel free to contact Robin Barten.