Algal Biotechnology

Microalgae culture collection

Cryopreserved cultures of microalgae are helping underpin research worldwide

The Cawthron Institute Culture Collection of Microalgae (CICCM) is a nationally significant living collection which underpins research worldwide, and supports vital work to ensure the safety of New Zealand seafood. The only one of its kind in New Zealand, the collection is highly ranked in the Asia-Pacific region, and is a member of the Asia Oceania Algae Collection network.

The collection currently contains:

  • 13 classes of marine and freshwater microalgae including several species that are unique to New Zealand or have properties not found in overseas containments. 
  • more than 255 cryopreserved strains of toxic microalgae and cyanobacteria
  • a living collection of 199 isolates.

To order from the collection:

Species and biological material can be purchased via For details contact the CICCM Curator, Krystyna Ponikla, or the Assistant Curator, Sarah Challenger.

Cawthron offers Microalgae identification for seawater and freshwater through its Microalgae monitoring programme.


  • The CICCM underpins research including the MBIE-funded Safe New Zealand Seafood programme, providing shellfish and finfish industries and public health agencies with advance warning of harmful algae blooms (HABs) and highlighting potential human health risks. Its support in identifying algae in routine water samples includes fresh water bodies that may be contaminated by cyanobacteria. 
  • Many of the microalgae marine biotoxins have been mass produced for the development of reference standards for regulatory authorities. Examples of toxins produced by microalgae in the collection include the cyclic imines (spirolides, gymnodimine, pinnatoxins), neurotoxins (saxitoxins, domoic acid, palytoxin), and diarrhetic toxins such as okadaic acid and its diol esters. 
  • The collection houses microalgae with the capability to produce valuable bioactive compounds, and some of these have been identified and isolated only from New Zealand waters. Many potential uses of these compounds are being investigated, including production of commodity and higher value products. Some of the species are being explored for their utility in renewable energy value chains. 

Listen Dr Rhodes talk about her Ciguatera poisoning research

Contact Lesley Rhodes or Kirsty Smith (co-leaders), for more information about our harmful algae research and the microalgae culture collection.

Contact us

Contact us

+64 3 548 2319