Venter Institute Ocean Sampling Program

Last week I met with John Evey and Chris Dupont from the J. Craig Venter Institute here in La Jolla. They were here to brief me on the results of the ocean sampling program we have been running with them on my boat Solutions. I was pleased to learn that the Venter team is obtaining good data from the sampling.

There have to date been eight separate ocean sampling trips on board Solutions, and the team has gathered a total of 15 samples. The focus of their current research program is to discover diatoms in the ocean that can be genetically manipulated to produce large quantities of lipids that can be converted into biofuel. They hope to do this by altering the expression of one particular protein in the diatom.

The sampling is conducted at two separate spots during each trip. One is at the easternmost station of the California Current Cooperative Fisheries sampling grid, and the other is about 15 km offshore of Mission Beach. According to the sampling team, these two locations often have very different characteristics, yielding different samples.

This past spring there was a very large red tide (Lingulodinium) bloom offshore of San Diego, the first major dinoflagellate bloom since 2005. We were lucky to be conducting a sampling trip at the very beginning of the bloom, with additional sampling trips in early May and early June, during the height of the bloom. RNA was extracted from the samples and genetic sequencing will be completed by the end of August 2011 — providing researchers with a new dataset of the gene expression of a dinoflagellate bloom. I have included a chart that shows Lingulodinium cell counts over time from samples taken at Scripps Institute Pier, with the Solutions samples marked with arrows. I have also included a photo of dinoflagellates from an early sample, and a photo of a red tide sample in full bloom.

I was also updated on the progress of the Sorcerer II research voyage. The boat is currently conducting sampling projects in Europe. I am supporting this voyage, and preliminary results are promising. For more information, I suggest you visit the Sorcerer II blog.

— Bob

Lingulodinium cell counts over time
Red tide sample