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Introducing DNA sequencing to the next generation on a research vessel sailing the Bering Sea through a storm


Date: 9th May 2019 | Source: Preprints

Authors: Anne-Lise Ducluzeau, Rachel M. Lekanoff, Noah S. Khalsa, Hillary H. Smith, Devin M. Drown.

Experiential learning in the field is an opportunity for students to enter the heart of a scientific discipline. Through such experience, they can extract conceptual clues and discover motivational stepping stones that will potentially influence the rest of their education and career choice. Unfortunately, in Biology, the inescapable topic of Next-Generation Sequencing represents a challenge when it comes to create an educational curriculum that aims to provide students with hands-on experience on sequencers. It is an even more difficult task to accomplish if one’s purpose was to set such curriculum in a field situation. However, in recent years, educators have seen possibility to bring Next-Generation Sequencing to the reach of students more easily, with the Oxford Nanopore MinION, a low-budget, user-friendly, hand-held sequencer. Academic researchers have illustrated the performances of this device in the field and are inspirational for curricula aiming to take the next generation of scientists in the outdoors. We designed a modular 5-day workshop, with nanopore sequencing to be performed in field conditions. Here we describe the material and methods that lead the students and instructors from sample collection, DNA extraction and preparation for nanopore sequencing with MinION to real-time analysis of the data collected. This curriculum was implemented for the first-time aboard Research Vessel Sikuliaq during a transit organized by the STEMSEAS program at Columbia University in collaboration with the University of Alaska BLaST program. The line of investigation formulated for the workshop was an open-ended question that led the students to establish a proof of concept in terms of technology deployment at sea: what will show metagenomic results from DNA obtained from sea water and sequenced with Oxford Nanopore MinION?The workshop took place in October 2018 while Research Vessel Sikuliaq sailed the Alaskans seas for 7 days. Students successfully used nanopore sequencing for multiple metagenomic seawater samples. Their introductory analysis was consistent with environmental conditions and they were able to present their results by the end of the workshop.

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