Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
CANON Initiative
Environmental sample processor

The Environmental Sample Processor (ESP) is a sensor that will allow the CANON team to conduct in situ molecular detection of specific species of harmful algal blooms (HABS).

New “ecogenomic sensors”, like the Environmental Sample Processor (ESP), provide an unprecedented possibility for in situ molecular detection of organisms such as harmful algal species. The ESP employs molecular probe techniques to autonomously assess the abundance of microorganisms, their genes, and metabolites in near real-time. Coupled with sustained environmental measurements provided by ocean observatories, assessment of microbial community structure and function will soon be possible in situ on spatial and temporal scales not previously achievable.

To date, tests proving the feasibility of this approach were largely limited to coastal waters. In 2009, the MBARI team proved for the first time that the ESP could also be operated for extended periods at depth. Deployed to 900 meters, the instrument successfully used the same DNA probe array and sample archival functionality as that proven to work in shallow waters, revealing time-varying alterations in microbial community structure as a function of changing environmental conditions. The instrument ran as a stand-alone system as well as networked via the MARS cabled observatory.


An Environmental  Sample Processor on the bottom of a large tank of water used for tests
The Deep-ESP shown below, is sitting at the bottom of MBARI's 10-meter-deep test tank undergoing tests related to its ability to automatically conduct biological tests. Image © MBARI 2009

Last updated: Aug. 17, 2010