DNA sequencing on board the Sikuliaq research vessel
The warming temperatures of the oceans affect phytoplankton communities. The frequency of algae blooms increases and causes dramatic consequences for Alaskan fisheries and for coastal native communities. Indeed, Alaskan traditional diets include impacted shellfish that have accumulated toxins produced by algae. Unfortunately, freezing or cooking do not neutralize these toxins. Thus, the preservation of traditional living of native communities necessitates the implementation of monitoring programs for harmful algae blooms and toxic shellfish. In October 2018, we introduced 12 undergraduate students to field genomics while navigating the Alaskan seas aboard the research vessel Sikuliaq. Using MinIONs, students analyzed in real-time the microbial communities of seawater samples. The second edition of our workshop will occur during London Calling 2019. We will sail the Northwestern Pacific Ocean for 9 days from San Diego, CA to Seward, AK. This time of the year and route are well suited to investigate algae blooms. Building on the design of the experiential learning we implemented in 2018, we will analyze sea water for phytoplankton, collect chlorophyll content measurements and microscopic images. By integrating their sequencing results with oceanographic data and imagery, participants will have the opportunity to fathom the relevance of using Oxford Nanopore Technology for urgent environmental concerns.