Phycology is the study of algae - a group of organisms that are spread across the broad expanse of eukaryotic diversity and even include the cyanobacteria. Not only are their origins diverse, but so too are their habitats; from marine to freshwater, thermal springs to snow, aquatic to terrestrial or even aerial habitats. In body form they are also surprisingly diverse, from microscopic unicells, some smaller than many bacteria, to large kelps of greater than 30 metres.
While their unifying (but not exclusive) character is that they are photosynthetic, some are voracious mixotrophs hunting other life forms while others have become parasitic, such as malaria. They, or their products, have considerable impact in medicinal use and in our everyday lives. Primary production by algae is gaining increasing support as a means to feed livestock or our energy needs without compromising precious land required for normal agricultural purposes and is an important source of human food or vitamins, particularly in the orient. This incredible scope provides a platform for an even greater scope for research using such organisms as subject material. In spite of our distance from the sea, much of the research efforts in this School are concentrated on marine microalgae.