Dr Peter Nichols investigates the development and use of marine oils and signature lipid technology.
Dr Peter Nichols: studying marine oils for healthy diets and environments
Dr Peter Nichols investigates the development and use of marine oils and signature lipids.
4 September 2007 | Updated 14 October 2011
Dr Peter Nichols co-leads a major project for the Food Futures Flagship that is developing crop plants with the capacity to produce omega-3 oils in their seeds.
Omega-3 oils, such as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), are beneficial to human health. Most commonly, they are made by lower plant forms such as marine microalgae and accumulate in fish via the marine food chain.
The Food Futures team is seeking new ways of producing omega-3 oils on a commercial scale.
In laboratory trials, the team has placed DHA-producing genes into a model land plant, causing it to produce DHA in its seeds.
While commercialisation of the research is still some years away, crop plants able to produce useful levels of DHA in their seeds could:
Dr Nichols has helped to improve the utilisation of Australian fisheries resources and wastes through the development of novel marine oil products.
improve human nutrition
reduce pressure on declining fish resources worldwide
provide new, high-value crops for Australian grain growers.
Dr Nichols’ research on marine oils involves the:
His communication of research results to industry and the wider community has helped to improve the utilisation of Australian fisheries resources and wastes through the development of novel marine oil products such as:
shark liver oils.
Other research initiatives by Dr Nichols involve:
the development and use of unique chemical signatures in microbial ecology
environmental (such as faecal pollution) and food-chain studies
new discoveries and applications in marine microbial biotechnology.
International collaboration has occurred across these fields, including sponsoring sabbaticals and visits by overseas scholars.
Dr Nichols joined CSIRO in 1986 after working in a postdoctoral position at Florida State University in the United States of America (USA) on the development and applications of signature lipid and other methodology in microbial ecology.
He maintains honorary research positions with the University of Tasmania, Australia and is an adjunct professor with the departments of Biology and Chemistry at San Diego State University.
There he works on the development and applications of signature lipid and other methodology in marine food webs and microbial ecology.
He supervises doctoral students through the University of Tasmania and maintains strong links with international counterparts in aquaculture, lipid and food web research.
Dr Nichols completed a:
Bachelor of Science with Honours at the University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Doctor of Philosophy also at the University of Melbourne.
His doctoral research involved:
- the development and use of signature lipids for seagrasses
- study of signature lipids in a range of microalgae and environmental samples.
Dr Nichols is an author of two Seafood the Good Food guides, sourcebooks that have helped the seafood industry and nutritionists understand the omega-3 content and composition of Australian seafood.
He was a member of the Biomining team that won the One-CSIRO project team award in 2002, and is a former president of the Australasian section of the American Oil Chemists Society.
Dr Nichols has published 220 scientific journal papers, 70 conference papers, 380 scientific and technical reports and 240 conference presentations. He also has filed six provisional patents, and supervised 18 doctoral and various other students.
Read more about Creating omega-3 in grains.