Algae as a key factor in agriculture
There is inadequate appreciation of algae as an important source of fertilizer and as plants that facilitate pollution remediation.
For details, contact Professor V.Krishnamurthy at Krishnamurthy Institute of Algology, No.9, Lady Madhavan I Cross street, Mahalingapuram, Chennai 600 034 or email: email@example.com. Phone (044)2817 1134, website: www.geocities.com/krishalg
GUIDING STUDENTS: Professor V. Krishnamurthy
Algology is a specialised branch of study dealing with algae, which includes seaweed.
A person who specialises in the study of the algae is called an algologist. Usually students of botany have to study a paper on the subject. But the course is considered to be technical and difficult as very little information is available especially for students who have registered for their M Phil and Ph D courses on algae.
With the aim of guiding students who have registered for M Phil and Ph D programmes in Algology, the Krishnamurthy Institute of Algology was started in 1991 in Chennai.
The main objective was to build up an algal herbarium and to preserve several native algal species, which have been lost due to various climatic and human interferences, according to Professor Krishnamurthy.
The Institute, which is registered as an NGO, has been conducting research, seminars and workshops emphasizing the potential of algae.
Apart from the preserved specimens the institute has a well-stocked library of more than 300 books, periodicals and research papers dealing with algae from all over the world.
"There are more than 5,000 reprints of published papers on algae from around the globe,"explained Professor Krishnamurthy. The Institute has research facilities that are open to all researchers. It also brings out a journal called Indian Hydrobiology, which has a number of researchers contributing to it.
How popular are the courses on Algae, both at the UG and PG level among the students, especially when there is a view among students of Botany that the courses are dry and technical?
I do not agree with the view that algology is dry and technical. Compared to some Asian countries such as Japan, algology as a subject is still not popular in India. In Japan, algology is under the faculty of Fisheries. A major part of algal research in Japan is in the fisheries sector and receives funding from the government.
In contrast, India which has a rich variety of seaweed along its southern coast such as Palk Bay and Gulf of Mannar, has done very little to promote the study of algae and to encourage the students.
What are the areas in which algology finds application?
The scope of algology is vast. Algae are useful in a number of applications such as making industrial chemicals, as food for humans and cattle. They can be used as fertilizer and for increasing fish production in water bodies.
But if the subject is still not well recognised in India, how can an algologist find suitable employment?
Algologists have a role to play in fisheries development, in monitoring the quality of water which is a natural resource, in using algae for bioremediation of waste water, in production of industrial chemicals such as agar, carrageenan and algin, in providing alternative sources of food and feed and in new drug development from micro and macro algae.
Are there any universities in India apart from your own that offer a course in the subject?
Courses in algology are offered at the Centre for Advanced Study in Botany, University of Madras, at the Department of Botany, Banaras Hindu University, at the University of Allahabad; in the Department of Botany and Biotechnology and at the Utkal University.
In most Universities, a course in algology is given as part of an M.Sc programme. Algal research is carried out exclusively in Krishnamurthy Institute of Algology, in the Universities mentioned above, in Central Salt and Marine Chemicals Research Institute, Bhavnagar, Gujarat and also at Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, Cochin, Kerala.
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