His research interests and that of his students have focussed on various aspects of the biology of the algae with an emphasis on seaweeds. Many of the seaweeds that have been investigated are utilized by humans as well as being intrinsically interesting organisms. These include certain red seaweeds (especially Mazzaella [formerly Iridaea] and Chondracanthus (formerly Gigartina) that produce carrageenans (much carrageenan now comes from aquacultured Eucheuma and Kappaphycus from southeast Asia), polymers that find many uses for their gelling and viscosity regulating properties. More recently the biology and systematics of several species of Porphyra was investigated. The edible product \"nori\"" is made from certain species of Porphyra
J. Robert Waaland, currently a Professor Emeritus in the Biology Department, received his B.A. in Biolgy (1966) and his Ph.D. in Botany (1969) from the University of California at Berkeley and joined the faculty of the Botany Department of the University of Washington in 1969. He also has studied at the Hopkins Marine Station of Stanford University and the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole. He participates in the instructional program at the University of Washington's Friday Harbor Laboratories.
He is a member of the Phycological Society of America (Vice-President 1989-90, President 1990-91 Endowment Funds Manager 1995-2004), Member of Board of Trustees and Executive Committee 1990-1993, 1995-2004), the International Phycological Society (Associate Editor of Phycologia, 2000-present), the Western Society of Naturalists (local meeting representative 1996), the British Phycological Society and the NorthWest Algal Symposium (several times meeting co-organizer and/or program chair).