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A day in the life: Diane Purcell-Meyerink, Teagasc Researcher

Diane Purcell-Meyerink began working at the Teagasc Food Centre, in July 2021. A Day in the Life... tells more about her well-traveled career path, taking her onto the NASA Ames base in California, to her current work in Teagasc on seaweeds and her Marie Cuire fellowship project ALGIPRO.

Diane's introduction to Science

I was fortunate to have been introduced to Science research during my undergraduate degree in Zoology over 20 years ago. My Dad was a Veterinary Surgeon in County Tipperary, and so I had a natural interest in nature and animals growing up when I assisted him with his work. I spent a year as an undergraduate placement student in a microbial ecology laboratory at Imperial College in the U.K. This experience got me interested in the field of Microbial Ecology, and specifically algae, where I even trained my first student. I loved this experience, and this experience kick-started my scientific career.

From Zoology to NASA

The following summer I got a position as a summer Volunteer at Yellowstone National Park. I finished my undergraduate degree, at the University of Wales in Aberystwyth, with a BSc (Hons) in Zoology. After this, I was fortunate, through collaborations with colleagues I met at Imperial, to be offered a Research Associate position with the SETI Institute at NASA Ames base in California.  I worked on extremophile algal species which live in runoff streams from hot springs. We were investigating several questions, which centred on algal resilience to ultraviolet light in Yellowstone National Park. We looked at these algal species as analogues to potential species on Mars, as the Mars Rover missions were starting at that time.

Using ultrasound to control algal blooms

I returned to the UK in 2005 to complete my Masters, in Ecology, Conservation and Evolution, at Imperial College, London. There I researched microbial community structure in hot springs in Thailand, and completed fieldwork at Hong Kong University in Tibet. In 2006, I started my PhD. at Cranfield University.  I worked with four UK water companies as industry partners who were looking for green energy solutions for water treatment. This was in the form of using ultrasound to control algal blooms.

Research and Education Roles

My first Post-Doc position was at the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton, and I then moved to Australia in 2012. I held Research Fellow Positions at both the Australian National University (ANU) and University of Canberra, prior to starting at the North Australian Marie Research Alliance (NAMRA) in Darwin as a Research Fellow. In addition to research roles, I’ve worked in education positions as Thesis Supervisor, University Tutor, Demonstrator, Lecturer, Course Writer, at the Australian National University and University of Canberra in Australia. In 2017, I completed a Bachelor of Education at Charles Darwin University in Darwin, Australia.

Over the course of my career, I have been privileged to work on numerous aspects of algal research in several different ecosystems, ranging from high altitude rock crevices in Tibet, to the marine coastal and ocean systems of the North Atlantic.

Diane's work in Teagasc

I  recently secured a Marie Sklodowska Curie Fellowship with funding from the Research Leaders 2025 programme. This is co-funded by Teagasc and the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement number 754380.  I began this in January 2020. My research project is based on sourcing bioproducts extracted from two native brown seaweed species from Ireland and New Zealand. The outgoing phase of this fellowship was based at the Cawthron Institute in New Zealand, working with Dr. Mike Packer and Dr. Thomas Wheeler, where optimisation of seaweed cultivation for bioproducts was  investigated. I started the return phase of my fellowship at the Teagasc Food Centre, at Ashtown in Dublin, working with Dr. Maria Hayes in July 2021.  During this phase I am concentrating on the extraction procedures needed to release bioproducts from both protein and carbohydrate sources within these two seaweeds.

Dr. Diane Purcell-Meyerink is a Marie Sklodowska Curie Fellow based at Teagasc Ashtown in Dublin. In this video Diane will be talking about her Marie Cuire fellowship project ALGIPRO. Her work is investigating how to optimally grow and extract bioproducts from two brown seaweeds; one a native New Zealand and one native Irish species. While at Teagasc, Diane aims to create a scalable, solvent-free, economical, extraction method for both protein and carbohydrates from these two seaweed species. 

You can also watch the events back here or visit Teagasc’s youtube channel if you want to watch more ‘A day in the Life’ videos here 

Teagasc Daily will feature one of these 'A day in the life' videos on Tuesdays over the next few Tuesdays.

Find out more here about Teagasc Food You might also like to read The future is kelp!

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