The Common Oceonographer: Crowscourcing the Collection of Oceanographic Data
We are proud to announce that we just published our landmark paper on citizen oceanography in Plos Biology, the highest impact journal of biological sciences. We detail the concept of citizen oceanography and how blue water cruisers can help with unprecedented breakthroughs in understanding basic ocean health.
Citizen oceanography, specifically science conducted aboard sailing yachts, would overcome data collection hurdles and empower civilian scientists with the pride of data contribution to science, providing an incredible opportunity for outreach as well as improving science education and increasing public awareness. Participation of a small fraction of the thousands of vessels that continuously cruise remote parts of the oceans could comprise a global oceanographic monitoring network that would boost the predictive power of scientific models. This would be a natural group of citizen scientists inherently motivated by their love of sailing and empirical knowledge of the beauty, power, and vastness of the world’s oceans.
Plenary Talk – The Influence of Highly Trafficked Shipping Lanes On Microbial Communities from the Indian Ocean
We present our finding from our transect across the northern Indian Ocean, bisecting one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world (Sri Lanka to Phuket, Thailand). Analysis of the Global Ocean Sampling Expedition (GOS) samples revealed an increased frequency of iron transporters in areas of the open ocean impacted by shipping vessels.
We tested this hypothesis by measuring trace metals and microbial community composition during the third leg of the Indigo V Indian Ocean expedition in 2013, a 2000 nm transect from Maldives to Thailand.
The preliminary analysis of trace metal samples showed a two-fold increase in surface water iron concentration in the shipping lane compared to outside this area.
We hypothesize that this is contamination from ships that are seeding the surface ocean in shipping lanes with microbes associated with bilge – such as pathogens. Regardless, shipping lanes despite being relatively confined in the vast ocean have anthropogenic impacts that affect microbial community structure and composition.
Plenary Talk – The Indian Ocean Concept Cruise: A Prototype For Citizen Microbial Oceanography
Microbial Oceanography has long been an extremely expensive discipline, requiring ship time for sample collection and thereby economically constraining the number of samples collected. This is especially true for under-sampled water bodies such as the Indian Ocean. Specialised scientific equipment only adds to the costs. Moreover, long term monitoring of microbial communities and large scale modelling of global biogeochemical cycles requires the collection of high-density data both temporally and spatially in a cost-effective way.
Thousands of private ocean-going vessels are cruising around the world’s oceans every day. We believe that a combination of new technologies, appropriate laboratory protocols and strategic operational partnerships will allow researchers to broaden the scope of participation in basic oceanographic research. We aim to prove that ’bigger’ is not necessarily ’better’ and the key to greater understanding of the world’s oceans is to forge the way to easier and cheaper sample acquisition.
The ultimate goal of the Indigo V Expedition is to create a working blue-print for ’citizen microbial oceanography’. We will present the preliminary outcomes of the first Indigo V expedition, from Cape Town to Singapore, highlighting the challenges and opportunities of such endeavors.
A Trait Based Perspective on the Biogeography of Common and Abundant Marine Bacterioplankton Clades
Marine microbial communities provide much of the energy that all larger life forms depend and play a pivotal role in biogeochemical cycling. How and why species are distributed in the global oceans, and whether net ecosystem function can be accurately predicted from community composition are fundamental questions for marine scientists.
Many of the most abundant clades of marine bacteria, including the Prochlorococcus, Synechococcus, SAR11, SAR86 and Roseobacter, have a very broad, if not a cosmopolitan distribution. However, this is not reflected in an underlying genetic identity. Rather, widespread distribution in these organisms is achieved by closely related but discrete ecotypes that display niche adaptations.
Closely related ecotypes display specific nutritional or energy generating mechanisms and are adapted to different physical parameters including temperature, salinity, and hydrostatic pressure. Furthermore, biotic phenomena such as selective grazing and viral loss contribute to the success or failure of ecotypes allowing some to compete effectively in particular marine areas but not in others. An additional layer of complexity is added by ocean currents.
Plenary Talk – Understanding Ocean Dynamics With Citizen Oceanography
When we think of the ocean, often times it’s the more exciting and interactive denizens of the sea that come to mind. We can easily connect with the plight of cetaceans in captivity, monitor by-catch, track Orca populations and lobby against shark culls.
It’s hard to believe, but the ocean could be completely devoid of macro-life, yet continue to serve its main function of atmosphere buffering, nutrient cycling, CO2 absorption and oxygen production. Taken in sum, the oceans are the backbone to sustaining habitable living conditions on earth. A healthy ocean eco-system underpins healthy life on land, national security and business interests for mankind. Yet we continue our assault on this very fragile eco-system with no real information on the effects of these activities.
As world population grows, the demand will only increase. Overfishing, toxic dumping, micro-plastic contamination and deep sea drilling all contribute to the destabilization of this increasingly fragile system. We are seeing the rise of ocean dead zones, acidification and the loss of big fish.
We will discuss how Indigo V Expeditions sailed 6500nm, developing a working blueprint for ‘citizen oceanography’. We tested the basic methods during the Indigo V Indian Ocean Concept Cruise, from Cape Town to Singapore, highlighting opportunities of this approach and developing yacht-adapted instrumentation. We will discuss how this research will result in advanced data models that can be used for the scientific management of fisheries, marine protected areas and preservation of the oceans and seas for generations to come.
Spatially Extensive Microbial Biogeography of the Indian Ocean Provides Insights Into The Unique Community Structure of a Pristine Coral Atoll
Microorganisms act both as drivers and indicators of perturbations in the marine environment. In an effort to establish baselines to predict the response of marine habitats to environmental change, here we report a broad survey of microbial diversity across the Indian Ocean, including the first microbial samples collected in the pristine lagoon of Salomon Islands, Chagos Archipelago. This was the first large-scale ecogenomic survey aboard a private yacht employing our ‘citizen oceanography’ approach. Our data highlighted biogeographic patterns in microbial community composition across the Indian Ocean.