March 9, 2007

MBARI researchers perform first automated analysis of genetic material in the deep sea

MBARI electrical engineer Scott Jensen prepares the environmental sample processor for its first deep-water sampling mission.

MBARI electrical engineer Scott Jensen prepares the environmental sample processor for its first deep-water sampling mission.

In a culmination of seven years of work, MBARI researchers this week performed the first automated analysis of genetic material in the deep sea. Using the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Ventana, they carried an automated laboratory called the Environmental Sample Processor (ESP) down to a depth of 1,000 meters in Monterey Bay. The ESP has been used previously to detect bacteria, algae, and other microorganisms in near-surface waters. In order to adapt this instrument for use in the deep sea, the researchers had to develop a “deep-water sampling module,” which allows the ESP to collect samples of sea water at depths where the water pressure can be several hundreds of times that at the surface. Eventually this device may be used at deep-sea hydrothermal vents or hooked up to the MARS ocean observatory in Monterey Bay.

For additional information or images relating to this article, please contact: Kim Fulton-Bennett
831-775-1835, kfb@mbari.org