MBL Scientists to Participate in International Ocean Sampling Day

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Contact: Diana Kenney
dkenney@mbl.edu; 508-289-7139; cell 508-685-3525

WOODS HOLE, Mass.— Saturday, June 21, 2014 is International Ocean Sampling Day. Scientists around the globe—including at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL)—will be collecting water samples, each containing a myriad of microorganisms, from different sites in the ocean. The goal of Ocean Sampling Day is to provide fundamental knowledge about the microbes in the world’s ocean, including information on their abundance, diversity, distribution, and function.

The Woods Hole sampling will take place off of the MBL dock (behind the squid gate), Waterfront Park, Water Street, from 11 AM to 1 PM. The sampling will be conducted by William Melvin, a research assistant at Sea Education Association in Woods Hole who also works in the lab of MBL Associate Scientist Linda Amaral Zettler.

Marine diatoms. Credit: Gordon T. Taylor, Stony Brook University

Marine diatoms. Credit: Gordon T. Taylor, Stony Brook University

Amaral Zettler is one of the science advisors for the Ocean Sampling Day (OSD) project. On June 21, she will also be actively sampling and helping to coordinate the sampling effort on three of the nine Azorean Islands (Sao Miguel, Faial, and Sao Jorge) in the North Atlantic Ocean, along with colleagues from the University of the Azores. OSD will encompass more than 165 marine research locations from Iceland to Antarctica and from Moorea (French Polynesia) via the Americas to South Africa.

After OSD, scientists will sequence the genetic material of the microbes in the collected water samples, which will help them to establish a baseline for measuring how marine microbial populations change over space and time. This microbial sequencing data, together with environmentally relevant measurements, will help scientists to determine and monitor the health status of many of the world’s coastal areas.

An agar plate with microorganisms isolated from a deep-water sponge Credit: NOAA

An agar plate with microorganisms isolated from a deep-water sponge Credit: NOAA

“The ocean is changing and life in the ocean is being impacted by many stressors including, but not limited to, climate change, ocean acidification, overfishing, habitat destruction, pollution and invasive species,” Amaral Zettler says. “Microbes are the most numerous inhabitants in the ocean and it is important to the biosphere and the health of our planet that they continue to deliver the ecosystem services that they provide, including half of the oxygen we breathe.  They are also important to fisheries because they are at the base of the food chain. Ocean Sampling Day provides a mechanism for observing changes in microbial populations that may provide clues to ocean health and ultimately the health of the planet,” she says.

Ocean Sampling Day is coordinated jointly by Jacobs University in Bremen, Germany and University of Oxford, UK. It is launched under the umbrella of the European-funded project Micro B3, which is engaged in boosting marine research and innovation opportunities.

The OSD media team based in Bremen is creating a movie of the event, including the Azorean sampling.

Amaral Zettler serves on the MicroB3 Scientific Advisory Board. She was formerly the Program Manager for the International Census of Marine Microbes (ICoMM), which was part of the larger Census of Marine Life, an international survey of life in the oceans conducted from 2000-2010. “OSD was very much inspired by ICoMM and indeed many of the coordinators and participants also participated in ICoMM as well,” says Amaral Zettler.


The Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) is dedicated to scientific discovery and improving the human condition through research and education in biology, biomedicine, and environmental science. Founded in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, in 1888, the MBL is a private, nonprofit institution and an affiliate of the University of Chicago