Algae are essential to life on Earth. They are ecosystem-building keystone species feeding and sheltering a myriad of marine lifeforms, generating oxygen through photosynthesis and sequestering carbon as they grow by absorbing excess waterborne nutrients.

In a world in climate crisis, algae hold the potential of ameliorating some of the negative human impacts on the Earth’s oceans. Algae-based materials grown in science-based, species- and site-specific aquaculture could also help humans shift away from fossil-based fuels and materials. However, this is only possible if we abandon extractive mindsets in favour of regenerative approaches that put the health of marine ecosystems and wild algae stocks first. We need to view algae not as ‘natural resources’ but as lifeforms with whom we co-exist on Earth – and without whom we could not exist.

The Department of Seaweed (DoS) is a transdisciplinary community of practice focused on exploring the potential of algae as a source of sustainable materials for making. It was founded by the designer, researcher, and educator Julia Lohmann in 2013, as part of her AHRC-funded PhD studentship at the Royal College of Art and Victoria & Albert Museum in London. Lohmann has been exploring sustainable uses of seaweed since 2007 and proposed the DoS as a collective that is both practice-led and co-speculative.