Alexander Thomson

        Photo of SAMS PhD student Alexander Thomson

PhD student

My research focuses on population genomics and genetic responses to stress in the sugar kelp Saccharina latissima. I am primarily involved in population dynamics and functional responses in sugar kelp; however I am also involved in the development of sustainable kelp aquaculture in Scotland and Norway.

Prior to this I worked a number of years in marine ecology and environmental surveying in the offshore industry.

Contact details:
  • +44 (0)1631 559000

Genetics and disease of the sugar kelp Saccharina latissima

Saccharina latissima, or sugar kelp, is one of the main candidate species for the large scale cultivation of seaweed in Europe. Traditionally used as a food ingredient and as a source of alginate and iodine, Saccharina is a fast growing and sugar rich species of kelp with the potential to be used as a sustainable and renewable biofuel. Whilst relatively well understood in terms of its distribution, physiology and lifecycle, little is known about the genetic diversity and functional response in S. lattisima.

Our aim is to use a targeted genetic approach to identify key functional genes relating to stress response in S. latissima to help in identifying those strains most suitable for domestication and cultivation.

The first step in our investigation involves mapping the genetic diversity, variability and connectivity of S. latissima across the west coast of Scotland using reduced-representation sequencing to identify discreet populations for further investigation into differential stress response. Those populations will then be characterised phenotypically and in terms of gene response under induced stress to identify key stress response genes and investigate differences in response between populations. Mapping the genetic diversity will also contribute to the greater understanding of genetic resources in wild populations of S. latissima in Scotland and how best to approach conservation of this important foundation species.

The project is part of a larger research initiative called MACROSEA which aims to provide a knowledge platform for the development of industrial macroalgae cultivation in Norway.


Dr Michele Stanley – SAMS

Kjersti Sjotun – University of Bergen

Project and funding

The Research Council of Norway


University of the Highlands and Islands

Teaching experience

Demonstrator: Blu Biotech Module – Algal Biotechnology Masters – SAMS

Lecturer and Demonstrator: National Oceanography Centre A-level Summer Schools – University of Southampton

Instructor and Demonstrator: 2nd Year Falmouth Field Course – University of Southampton

Past employment

Marine Scientist at Benthic Solutions Ltd

2013-2015  - Offshore technician, data analyst and report writer at BSL marine environmental surveyors


2009-2013 MSc Marine Biology, University of Southampton