In a major step forward for monitoring the biodiversity of marine systems, a new study published in Environmental DNA details how Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) and NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic & Meteorological Laboratory (AOML) researchers are using autonomous underwater robots to sample environmental DNA (eDNA). eDNA allows scientists to detect the presence of aquatic species from the tiny bits of genetic material they leave behind. This DNA soup offers clues about biodiversity changes in sensitive areas, the presence of rare or endangered species, and the spread of invasive species—all critical to understanding, promoting, and maintaining a healthy ocean.
Have you ever wondered what animals might be present in a particular habitat or traveled through a certain area of the ocean? Scientists are able to use environmental DNA or “eDNA” sampling to help answer those questions. NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML) has recently released a new educational video series, “Exploring Environmental DNA” on their website and Youtube channel.
At 20:00 at 64°S in the austral summer month of February, the sun was still high in the sky. It cast a delicate light over the sea surface dotted with icebergs, which ranged from small misshapen chunks to massive angular structures with marbled cliffsides. In January and February 2022, I took part in an Antarctic voyage aboard the French schooner Tara. My participation was part of a partnership between NOAA and AtlantECO, a European-led consortium to characterize, quantify, and model Atlantic Ocean ecosystems.
Scientists at NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML),the Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies (CIMAS) at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, and the Northern Gulf Institute at Mississippi State University have engineered a new instrument that will provide valuable information about the biodiversity of aquatic ecosystems. A recently published paper in Hardware X describes the design and creation of a low-cost, open-source sub-surface automated environmental DNA (eDNA) sampler (SASe), for sampling eDNA in the water column. The SASe represents a milestone for AOML as one of the first pieces of technology to go through a rigorous transition process from the desks of scientists in the laboratory, through organizational approval channels, to the wider scientific community with full accessibility to the public.
AOML scientists and partners from an assortment of universities and Cooperative Institutes successfully completed the most comprehensive ocean acidification sampling of the Gulf of Mexico to date with the conclusion of the fourth Gulf of Mexico Ecosystems and Carbon Cruise, also known as the GOMECC-4 cruise. The research effort aboard the NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown began out of Key West, Florida on September 13, 2021 with 25 scientists and graduate students aboard. It ended 39 days later on October 21 with a port stop in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Dr. Nastassia Patin, a Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies (CIMAS) scientist working at AOML, recently spent three weeks aboard the NOAA ship Reuben Lasker collecting environmental DNA (eDNA) from water samples in support of the Rockfish Recruitment and Ecosystem Assessment Survey (RREAS).
From the desk of CSI: Miami (Fish Edition): Solving an eDNA mystery. NGI Associate Research Professor Luke Thompson and NGI Postdoctoral Associate Sean Anderson have been studying the environmental DNA (eDNA) left behind by fish at the University of Miami dock (pictured), near the NOAA Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory in Miami, Florida. When they analyzed the data, while many of the fish species detected were expected for the area, they were surprised by several unexpected species, such as rainbow trout. To help solve this mystery, Luke and Sean sent out a survey to fish biologists with expertise in this region.
From March to May, NGI Postdoctoral Associate Sean Anderson is taking part in two legs of a NOAA Fisheries survey in the Gulf of Mexico on board NOAA Ship Pisces. The NOAA project, “Environmental DNA Enhancement of Fisheries Independent Monitoring Cruises for Ecosystem Based Fisheries Management”, seeks to improve ecosystem-based fisheries management (EBFM) with the use of environmental DNA (eDNA) sequencing. Camera traps (pictured) placed at the seafloor in the Gulf of Mexico capture video of passing fish, while bottles collect seawater that the fish have passed through, leaving behind DNA traces.