Sequencing at Sea

Malden North Site

Sequencing At Sea
By Yan Wei

Sequencing at sea is not a trivial task. It is even more challenging for a molecular biologist who studies human diseases and is used to clean, state of the art molecular grade laboratory equipment. However, we did it! The marine molecular lab spaces span from behind the bar at the back deck for sample processing to a long bench in the bedroom for DNA extraction and sequencing library preparation. Then it moves towards the laundry room close to the hull for running the centrifuge, and finally ends at the owner’s cabin where the sequencer sits.

Bedroom: Molecular Lab space

Laundry Room: OneTouch

Owner’s Cabin: Sequencer system running centrifugation

Arriving at beautiful Malden Island, we have 14 bacterial genomes sequenced while 8 other bacterial genomes and two microbial communities are in progress. The reef on Malden is one my favorites. It is densely populated with corals and vast amounts of fish ranging from tiny little hawkfish to the top predators. In addition to that, the water column housed a vast number of microscopic organisms including bacteria and viruses whose functions are key to the performance of the reef and the ocean. Who are they and what are they doing? Sequenced genomes and metagenomes tell us the genes carried by the microbes. Coupling with other experimental set-ups on scene, we started to understand the functional roles of these microorganisms and their effect on this beautiful reef in real-time.