Ocean Sampling Day 2014: Capturing marine biodiversity

Ocean Sampling Day 2014: Capturing marine biodiversity

17 Jun 2014 - 10:45
  • MicroB3's Ocean Sampling Day, the first global sampling and sequencing event, will take place at over 160 sites throughout the world.
  • The event takes place on 21 June 2014.
  • Data will be made openly available to all.
  • Ocean Sampling Day welcomes citizen scientists to participate.

On 21 June 2014, researchers throughout the world will be sampling the oceans in a push to capture the microbial biodiversity of marine surface water. The first Ocean Sampling Day will take place at over 160 sites spanning Iceland, Antarctica, French Polynesia, the Americas and South Africa. The data collected will be shared publicly via EMBL-EBI’s European Nucleotide Archive and Metagenomics Portal, environmental database PANGAEA, and European portals SeaDataNet and EurOBIS.

Because of the falling costs of DNA sequencing, marine scientists can now use this technology widely to understand the important but complex communities that make up ocean life. “Microbes may be small, but they sustain so many of our planet’s critical resources and harbour potentially useful compounds,” comments Guy Cochrane, who leads the European Nucleotide Archive at the European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI).

Speaking the same language

Scientists working in Micro B3, the EU-funded project behind Ocean Sampling Day, have been finding new ways to integrate DNA sequencing, ecology and oceanography data and to apply these methods across the world’s oceans.

“One of the driving principles of this project is conation to collaborate and to share knowledge for a purpose that far exceeds borders of scientific domains and national territories,” says Petra ten Hoopen of EMBL-EBI, who coordinated the Micro B3 Standards team. “Oceanographers, molecular and ecosystem biologists, bioinformaticians, all had different ways of referring to the same information. We have learned a great deal how to efficiently work together and share information. Over 160 sampling stations worldwide agreed to follow a single sampling protocol in order to contribute to hitherto the biggest single-day snapshot of world’s oceans. Only in alliance we can catch a glimpse of the wealth and potential of the deep sea.”

MicroB3 has run pilot ocean sampling days to test-run standardised methods for sampling, shipping, sequencing, data transfer and analysis. Now that the bumps have been smoothed out, the project is ready to go.

A new era for marine research

“With more than 150 sampling sites worldwide, Ocean Sampling Day has exceeded our wildest dreams,” says Micro B3 coordinator Prof. Dr Frank-Oliver Glöckner of Jacobs University Bremen. “The resulting dataset marks the beginning of a new area of genome-enabled site-based marine research.”

Rob Finn of EMBL-EBI adds, “Such large-scale projects are going to become increasingly common and are essential for understanding ecological systems. The data analysis procedures being developed for Ocean Sampling Day are driving the field forward - but it is clear that much remains to be discovered about the microbial world.”

“Ocean Sampling Day is the first simultaneous sampling of the world’s oceans at a significant scale,” says Prof Dawn Field of the NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology at Oxford University, who is leading Ocean Sampling Day. “It is a historical event - and hopefully it’s just the beginning and may continue in the future!”

Citizen science: MyOSD

Ocean Sampling Day encompasses a new citizen science initiative: MyOSD (www.my-osd.org), which invites citizens to upload their own scientific measurements. These data will be used to support those deposited by the sampling scientists. The result of both efforts will be a common pool of data to be openly shared.

Anyone can be a citizen scientist and collect environmental data for Ocean Sampling Day! If you have access to marine or fresh water - even in your garden – you can send in your data. MicroB3 has developed an app for android smartphones and iPhones for everyone to use. You can find full instructions at www.my-osd.org

Data sharing

Ocean Sampling Day is underpinned by clear data-sharing agreements, put in place to expedite the spread of new knowledge about our ecosystems and the sustainable use of marine genetic resources. Following DNA sequencing of the collected samples, bioinformatics will be used to identify species and unknown functional genes. The MicroB3 information system will integrate data from professional and citizen science sampling and make it publicly available in major databases, following quality controls. MicroB3 has developed Intellectual Property (IP) recommendations to address issues such as ownership of and access to the collected samples, data and analysis. Ocean Sampling Day will serve as a testing ground for their long-term applicability. 

Notes for editors

Ocean Sampling Day, funded by the EU as part of the MicroB3 project, is coordinated by Jacobs University in Bremen, Germany and Oxford University in the UK. A full list of scientific partners can be found at www.microB3.eu/partners/scientific

Map and full list of OSD sites and participating institutions: https://mb3is.megx.net/osd-registry/list

Video - Ocean Sampling Day overview: http://youtu.be/N34Tpr68qHk

Video - Tutorial for citizen scientists: http://youtu.be/1lhDdPbzuTs

Video - Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, Member of the EC in charge of Research, Innovation and Science presenting the an Action Plan for Innovation in the 'Blue Economy': http://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player.cfm?ref=I088957&videolang=INT&starttime=595&endtime=680&devurl=http://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player/config.cfm


The whole Ocean Sampling Day team can be reached at osd-contact@microb3.eu

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/microb3osd

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Micro_B3 - follow the event by searching for #osd2014

Contact the news team

Mary Todd Bergman
Senior Communications Officer
+44 (0)1223 494 665

Oana Stroe
Communications Officer
+44 (0)1223 494 369

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