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.
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.
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.
In February 2020, the NOAA ‘Omics Strategy was launched. The Strategy was informed by a whitepaper that recently became available on the NOAA Institutional Repository. This document titled NOAA ‘Omics White Paper: Informing the NOAA ‘Omics Strategy and Implementation Plan, identifies NOAA’s priorities in ‘omics research, promotes integration and communication among line offices, and proposes possible solutions to implementation challenges in this quickly advancing sector of research.
Dr. Luke Thompson, a Northern Gulf Institute Assistant Research Professor at AOML, sailed aboard the Norwegian icebreaker RV Kronprins Haakon in May as part of a research effort focused on characterizing species that dwell in the mesopelagic zone—the region of the ocean 200–1000 meters below the surface. The cruise was undertaken to explore the potential for developing a new fishery based on mesopelagic fish.
Dr. Luke Thompson, a Northern Gulf Institute professor with AOML’s Ocean Chemistry and Ecosystems Division, and AOML coauthor Kelly Goodwin are the recipients of an Outstanding Scientific Paper Award from NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) for their landmark paper entitled A communal catalogue reveals Earth’s multiscale microbial diversity. The paper was selected by OAR as the top FY-2018 science article in the Oceans and Great Lakes category. Thompson et al. (2017)* presents an analysis of microbial samples collected by hundreds of researchers worldwide for the Earth Microbiome Project. The paper serves as both a reference database and a framework for incorporating data from future studies, advancing the characterization and understanding of Earth’s microbial diversity
In an effort to better understand our microbiomes, scientists from NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML) took part in a massive global research collaboration known as the Earth Microbiome Project (EMP), which recently released the first reference database, or atlas, of microbes covering the planet. This guide, released online in Nature today, will allow scientists to collaborate on studies and catalogue microbial diversity at an unprecedented scale.