June 27, 2013

Decoding the oceans

Marine genomics has the power to reveal the many undiscovered secrets of the oceans.

The Oceans are filled with a diversity of life forms. This means that getting a complete picture of marine biodiversity is challenging. Now, researchers are exploring new ways of identifying organisms—particularly invasive species—in sea water, as well as monitoring how marine life changes and exploring how we could benefit from this knowledge.

Among those involved are marine scientists, who routinely board research vessels to collect plankton samples, for example, along the Swedish West coast. Historically they would return with the samples and look at individual organisms under the microscope, trying to identify every single organism on their search for invasive species. This is a very difficult task when organisms are in their early life stage and difficult to distinguish. “Invasive species have caused a lot of problems in the last twenty years and they will cause more problems in the future”, says Matthias Obst, marine scientist from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. “So we need to find methods to understand the dynamics of invasive species. And here genomic methods are very powerful.”