Oceanographic Sampling Tours and My Birthday

Last week was a good one for me. On Tuesday my daughter Mary Ann and I met with Sedra Shapiro from the San Diego Foundation and Mary Maxon from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. The Moore Foundation has funded many studies conducted by Craig Venter including considerable sponsorship of his oceanographic sampling tours. I mentioned to Mary that we are planning to sponsor part of the next tour, which goes from San Diego down through the Panama Canal and ends up in Europe — sampling places there that they had not sampled before. In the afternoon, I went to the Synthetic Genomics Inc. (SGI) at the Torrey Pines Science Park in La Jolla. We heard some very interesting lectures and toured the extensive facilities as much as we had time to. I was particularly interested in seeing how they processed the algae they had in some containers and in viewing their extensive microscope lab. All in all, I’m excited about trying to play some role in the experiments they’re conducting where the payoff could be so great for our country.

On Wednesday, we went to the Venter Institute, which is at a different location just off Genesee Avenue in La Jolla. It’s a nonprofit, whereas SGI is a profit-making operation. They told us how they are doing the basic research to enable product development at Synthetic Genomics, although the information would be in the public domain for anyone to use. The Venter Institute and SGI are a perfect complement to one another.

Friday we took the boat Solutions to Catalina. We had five of my close friends, each of whom had been sailors but not motorboat people. We also invited two young scientists from the Venter Institute to join us and to take samples off Catalina, looking at diatoms and other wiggly creatures. Catalina is very busy this time of year, so the logistics of getting around were a little bit difficult. But I think I had one of the best times on a boat excursion I’ve ever experienced. On returning, the two young scientists from the Venter Institute took their samples to the lab. We haven’t heard yet how the experiments came out. I must say our sampling techniques were quite crude and we mainly sampled the surface water, not the water at lower depths. Before we do this again, we need to install a sampling system to take samples at known depths. I have been hoping to find such a thing on the Internet but have not yet. I appreciate any advice from oceanographers who may be reading this blog.

Saturday was my birthday and I turned 84 years old. The five of us went to the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club and had a good time. I hope my next 84 years are as enjoyable as my first 84 years.

— Bob