Scholarship leads to innovative solution for coral bleaching

Published Apr 22, 2024

PhD student Oscar Crehan is well on his way to developing a new approach to save coral reefs from bleaching, thanks to a scholarship from Wellington UniVentures.

Oscar Crehan

Oscar has developed a nutrient diffuser (the “Seafuser”) that can be placed on the ocean floor, nearby coral reefs to steadily raise the ammonium concentration in the area to a low, but effective concentration, which previous research suggests can prevent or slow coral bleaching.

Oscar is pursuing a PhD at Victoria University of Wellington’s School of Biological Sciences under Prof Simon Davy, an expert in coral reefs. In 2023, Wellington UniVentures awarded Oscar the $20,000 Jeremy Bloomfield Memorial Scholarship to help him shape his idea towards a commercially viable solution with potential for immense real-world impact.

Wellington UniVentures CEO Pierre Malou says, “Through the scholarship, we aim to give Victoria University post-grads a financial boost that will help them launch their research from the lab to the world. Oscar’s patented Seafuser technology is exemplary of what the scholarship is intended to achieve.”

Wellington UniVentures mostly works with intellectual property created by researchers employed by the University, rather than students like Oscar, but the scholarship is an important way that the organisation promotes entrepreneurship on campus.

“Entrepreneurial students become entrepreneurial researchers, so we are keen to foster impact-driven thinking that focuses on solving real-world problems through initiatives like this scholarship.”

The scholarship is in memory of Jeremy Bloomfield, a Wellington UniVentures team member who passed away suddenly in 2020. The scholarship honours Jeremy’s legacy through support for research commercialisation in the fields of environment and education – two of Jeremy’s passions.

Jeremy’s wife, Christine Bloomfield, is delighted with the progress Oscar has made through the award. “This is very exciting work, and it’s great to see the promising results. We wish Oscar all the best for his future research in this area and the completion of his doctorate.”

Oscar expresses his thanks for the opportunity the scholarship has given him to develop the Seafuser. He says, “Last year I had an idea, but now I have a patent pending Seafuser that could potentially help marine life survive climate change. None of which would have been possible without the scholarship. The seed of an idea has now grown to a small sapling, and I am confident that I make the right decisions, I can grow it into a forest that can have a global impact.”

In the coming months, Oscar will travel to the Philippines to test the Seafuser on coral reefs in the ocean. In the meantime, he’s also working on finishing his PhD and seeking collaboration from partners who can help test the Seafuser on corals and other marine organisms.

Oscar's solution could help prevent coral bleaching