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Sampling the world's oceans


Researchers from Newcastle University’s Dove Marine Laboratory will join scientists from around the world in as part of the largest ocean sampling event ever to take place in one day.

Ocean Sampling Day - the simultaneous sampling of the world’s oceans - is being held at noon on 21 June. It will be the single biggest attempt to gather information on the marine environment and Newcastle University scientists will be ensuring data from the region is included in the results.

The sampling will be conducted at more than 160 marine research locations from Iceland to Antarctica and from Moorea in French Polynesia to South Africa. The programme is part of a worldwide effort to provide information on the diversity of microbes, their function and their potential economic benefits.

At the same time, members of the public are being asked to take part in this global science event by carrying out their own sampling along their local coastline and sending in the information via a specially-created app.

Annie Russell, Marine Education Officer, and Dr Susan Gebbels are based in the Dove Marine Laboratory. They are part of the Newcastle team who will be carrying out the sampling.

“This is the first time simultaneous sampling of the world’s oceans has been carried out on such a huge scale,” Annie explains.

“The aim is to try to understand exactly what impact climate change is having on our oceans and because microbes respond so quickly to change, we hope that by studying their DNA we will be able to build a picture of the environmental impact of global warming.”

Dr Gebbels added: “It’s not just about the scientists. We need members of the public to take part too and help us collate this information. Anything from taking the temperature to measuring the pH of the water will help to inform the overall study.”

Sea water samples collected from the coastline by the Dove Marine Laboratory team will be sent to Germany for analysis, including gene sequencing of the microbes isolated from the samples. This, together with environmentally relevant measurements, will enable them to determine the health status of our coast.

Citizens are encouraged to go to the coast and take environmental data recordings and share them to support the sampling scientists. The measurements can be uploaded via an app for iPhone or Android.

The Ocean Sampling Day (OSD) concept was designed to facilitate a global, coordinated, standardised campaign in marine data collection. Until now the downstream analysis methods used in this field did not always enable easy interpretation and comparisons.

OSD pilot sampling activities (four held to date) have shown that this new approach is generating an exciting set of new and fully standardized data from sampling to sequencing, analysis and annotation of gene functions.


The sampling program is coordinated jointly by Jacobs University in Bremen, Germany and the University of Oxford. The effort was launched under the umbrella of the European-funded project Micro B3, which aims to boost marine research and innovation opportunities. 

published on: 19 June 2014