AltaSea Celebrates Opening of Seaweed Lab and Welcomes New CEO

By Emily Vidovich. Emily has a background in environmental journalism and sustainability and is a member of the George Washington University Class of 2019.

This past week, AltaSea and its partners at the University of Southern California (USC) officially opened a seaweed lab on the AltaSea campus. The 6,000 square foot lab will conduct research on regenerative aquaculture as well as aquafarming technologies.

The opening of the lab, known officially as the Nuzhdin Research Laboratory, marks the beginning of a promising partnership between the nonprofit and USC’s Dr. Sergey Nuzhdin. With the support of NOAA Sea Grant and the USDA, Dr. Nuzhdin and his team will be investigating ways to sustainably expand aquaculture, particularly the cultivation of bivalves and kelp, in the United States. Part of this research involves improving the commercial production of seaweeds through establishing best practices in breeding and cultivation, in order to protect the genetic diversity of kelp. 

Photo Credit: Taso Papadakis.

Over 150 guests were in attendance to celebrate the opening and listen to a panel discussion between AltaSea CEO Terry Tamminen, USC President Carol L. Folt, and philanthropist Dr. Melanie Lundquist.  Former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger also made a virtual appearance to extend his congratulations.

The ribbon-cutting event for the seaweed lab was one of the first that AltaSea’s new CEO Terry Tamminen, who began his tenure at the start of 2022, has been able to oversee.

Prior to joining AltaSea, Tamminen’s diverse career spanned oceanic research, successful private sector endeavors, and notable accomplishments in both public service and nonprofits. In 1993, he founded the Santa Monica Bay Keeper, now known as the Los Angeles Waterkeeper, and co-founded waterkeeper programs in five additional California Watersheds. He later served as the executive director of the Environment Now Foundation and co-founded the Frank G. Wells Environmental Law Clinic at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Law, which was recently renamed the Emmett Institute for Climate Policy at UCLA Law.

In 2003, Tamminen was appointed as secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency under the Schwarzenegger administration. He was later appointed cabinet secretary and chief policy advisor to the governor. During his tenure, Tamminen developed several groundbreaking environmental policies, including the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, the Hydrogen Highway Network, and the Million Solar Roofs initiative. After leaving state government in 2006, Tamminen founded Seventh Generation Advisors (SGA), which encourages a “bottom up” approach to adopting clean energy and climate policy. He currently serves as SGA’s president in addition to his new role as AltaSea’s president and CEO.

At the opening of the USC seaweed lab, Tamminen stressed the importance of the work being done at AltaSea, “We’ve profoundly damaged the ocean, our home, making it a dumping ground for plastic and oil and so much carbon pollution that we’ve changed the PH, the very chemistry of the ocean. We must reverse those trends in our oceans and AltaSea is the best place to discover and scale up those solutions to the challenges.”

The USC seaweed lab joins aquaculture innovators Holdfast Aquaculture and Carlsbad Aquafarms at AltaSea. Housing organization’s from the same sector in one facility will enable the sharing of knowledge as well as cooperative efforts on engaging local youth, training future sustainable aquafarmers, and developing mentorship programs for student researchers. This spirit of scientific collaboration is at the root of AltaSea’s mission to connect diverse ocean experts in order to accelerate the creation of the blue economy.

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