Seagriculture USA

11 - 12 September 2024

Ketchikan, Alaska, USA

The Alaska seaweed biomining project

Schery Umanzor, Assistant Professor, University of Alaska Fairbanks, USA

About speaker:

Dr. Schery Umanzor serves as the mariculture faculty at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF), bringing a wealth of expertise in ecology, ecophysiology, and the cultivation of seaweed and abalone. Her work extends the development of cost-effective tools and methodologies for optimal site selection in Alaska's kelp farms, the refinement of cultivation protocols for red seaweeds, the establishment of a pinto abalone cultivation initiative tailored for Alaska, and the exploration of seaweed's potential for bio-mining rare earth metals. Dr. Umanzor earned her doctorate in Marine Ecology in November 2017. Shortly after, she joined the Seaweed Biotechnology Lab at UCONN, CT, where she focused on the selective breeding of sugar kelp. In 2020, she brought her invaluable insights and passion to UAF.



The University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) stands as a beacon of excellence in scientific research and is renowned for its pioneering efforts in Arctic, ocean, and boreal forest studies.


The University of Alaska Fairbanks is investigating the accumulation potential of rare earth elements in hyperaccumulating native seaweed species surveyed around the Bokan Mountain rare earth element deposit in Southeast Alaska. The project is conducting a comprehensive environmental survey to understand how natural erosion transports rare earth elements from ridge to ocean. Moreover, the team is collecting native seaweed species and conducting biomass tissue chemical composition and polymer analysis to create maps of coastal sites rich in rare earth elements bound to biological materials, along with cultivation guidelines to harvest optimal mineral concentrations. If successful, the findings will guide the selection of seaweed species and farm designs for large-scale cultivation and inform the maximum scalability of seaweed farming operations designed to harvest rare earth elements without the environmental impacts of traditional mining operations.