Microalgal Services

About Us

Microalgal Services

Microalgal Services is a specialist Melbourne based laboratory whose core business is the routine monitoring and identification of marine and estuarine phytoplankton species. While there are numerous laboratories involved in the analysis of freshwater phytoplankton, relatively few scientists in Australia have the specialist knowledge and facilities to accurately identify marine phytoplankton to species level.

Microalgal Services was established in 1997, in response to the need for a laboratory with the facilities and expertise to provide fast and accurate routine monitoring, as well as high level identification of marine phytoplankton.  Senior scientists at the laboratory are Dr Steven Brett and Dr David Hill, who have extensive training and experience in the field of marine phytoplankton taxonomy and identification.

Microalgal Services is NATA accredited to carry out identification and enumeration of microalgae and cyanobacteria from marine, estuarine and freshwater environments.

Clients and Programs

Microalgal Services is the primary phytoplankton monitoring laboratory for the New South Wales, Victorian and Queensland Shellfish Quality Assurance Programs. It was also the primary phytoplankton laboratory during initial development of the South Australian Program.  In addition to aquaculture programs, Microalgal Services is involved in phytoplankton monitoring for environmental programs, and numerous government and university research projects. Microalgal Services provides monitoring, identification services and advice to Primary Industry, Research and Environmental Organizations in most Australian states, as well as Universities, Port Authorities, Local Government and private companies.

Phytoplankton Monitoring and Identification

Microalgal Services aims to provide the highest quality marine phytoplankton identification and monitoring services available in Australia. Our laboratory is well equipped for preparation of samples and identification of a wide range of marine phytoplankton species. We have developed procedures that enable rapid turnaround of samples (24 hours or less), which is critical for effective monitoring and management of aquaculture harvesting areas.

Routine examination of water samples at Microalgal Services involves not only bright-field and phase-contrast microscopic analysis, but also incorporates fluorescence microscopy. This additional technique, which enables accurate examination of dinoflagellate cells is crucial for identification of many toxic species that are difficult (or impossible) to accurately identify using standard techniques. Electron microscopy, an important tool in the identification of some toxic species, is also available at Microalgal Services. We have access to Electron Microscope Facilities at both Monash University and the University of Melbourne.


Senior scientists at Microalgal Services, Dr Steven Brett and Dr David Hill are both recognized for their expertise in the field of marine and estuarine phytoplankton.  Prior to establishing Microalgal Services, Dr Brett was employed as curator of the US National Phytoplankton Collection (CCMP).  He has also held teaching and research positions at the University of Melbourne and Monash University.  Dr Hill has worked extensively on marine phytoplankton at the University of Melbourne, Copenhagen University and Monash University and is internationally recognized for his expertise on Australian marine phytoplankton.

We have strong links with Universities and research organizations both nationally and internationally, and ongoing contact with a range of recognized experts in the field. Microalgal Services participates in UNESCO-IOC international proficiency testing and inter-laboratory comparisons.

Microalgal Services maintains an active involvement in education and research. Staff are involved in the development and teaching of courses on marine phytoplankton to industry, as well as at a tertiary level. We also participate in numerous collaborative research projects and publications on the Australian phytoplankton flora.

Customer Service

Microalgal Services is in the unique position of being able to provide immediate, personalized customer service. All clients have direct access to management and analysts via phone or email whenever required. This enables us to respond immediately to requests, and to provide feedback as a project develops. Through this approach, Microalgal Services is able to assist in project design, suggest methods and modifications, and provide general advice on phytoplankton whenever necessary.

Microalgal Services is located in Ormond, Melbourne, with full access to metropolitan courier services. Its central location means that samples from most Australian capital cities can be received before 9am on the day following collection. After hours/weekend access is available for urgent samples, and rapid (same day) turnaround of samples can be arranged if necessary.