October 22, 2010

Robotic laboratory studies bacteria at Southern California methane seep

The Environmental Sample Processor (ESP), a robotic biochemistry laboratory, proved its versatility once again during the summer of 2010, when it detected bacteria at an undersea methane seep off the coast of Southern California. The movie below describes this expedition.

The Environmental Sample Processor (ESP) is a robotic biochemistry lab that can be placed in the ocean to analyze genetic material and other organic compounds created by microorganisms in seawater. After performing these analyses, the ESP can save the samples, record the results, or send the results back to shore in real time. Such analyses can indicate what types of micro-organisms are present in the water around the ESP. The ESP can also detect complex organic materials such as the toxins produced by some red-tide algae.

For more information about how the ESP works, take a look at the video below, which was created by the NASA Astrobiology program:

The ESP was developed at MBARI with support from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the National Science Foundation’s Ocean Technology Interdisciplinary Coordination (OTIC) program. The PCR module for the ESP was designed and merged with the ESP with support from NASA’s Astrobiology Science and Technology for Exploring Planets (ASTEP) program and from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. The transfer of the ESP technology to Spyglass Biosecurity and McLane Research Laboratories (the manufacturing partner) has been supported by the Packard Foundation, the Moore Foundation, NASA ASTEP, NSF OTIC, and the Center for Microbial Oceanography Research and Education (C-MORE).

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