The species identities, composition, and diversity of life in our world's oceans remain about 95% uncharted, yet this knowledge is fundamental to assess the status of today's marine resources and predict those to come. The global ocean is undergoing rapid changes in temperature, hypoxia, and acidity, which are driving ecosystem shifts that affect the "blue economy", including altered species compositions, distributions, and diversity. Observed and expected changes also affect food availability, growth rates, reproduction, disease, and mortality for commercially and ecologically important species, and across their food webs. Our PMEL 'Omics vision, with university and agency partners, is to help elucidate how the identities and compositions of these living communities are related to geological and oceanographic processes, by developing and applying metagenomic and bioinformatics tools. Their timely, cost-effective, and efficient application holds considerable promise to advance the ability to predict ecosystem responses and enhance economic growth, contributing to the NOAA mission to explore, conserve, and manage our marine natural resources.
Our PMEL 'Omics collaborative research employs targeted metagenomics and bioinformatics to discern the identities, diversity, and compositions of biological communities, linked with physical and chemical oceanographic data and modeling, to help address the NOAA 'Omics Roadmap's overarching priorities to: (A) support the Blue Economy with tools to help improve shellfish, fisheries, food webs, and ecosystem monitoring, (B) Promote Operational Improvement through faster access to diagnostic sequence data and species/taxon assessment, supplementing traditional sample processing, and (C) Advance Ocean Science and Stewardship by improving tracking species identities and compositions of entire communities, and key fish and shellfish species and their food webs, across their respective life history stages.
Responsive to the NOAA 'Omics Roadmap, our research provides foundation to help aid and improve how NOAA maps, understands, and manages economically valuable species, vulnerable populations, and their ecosystems. Addressing NOAA's monitoring and modeling missions, our projects design, test, ground-truth, and employ multiple targeted metabarcode high-throughput sequence analyses to delineate and evaluate the species compositions, diversities, and relative abundances of marine communities as they fluctuate and respond to changing physical, chemical, and biological oceanographic conditions and interactions. Our projects conduct primary research that develop and apply cutting edge targeted metagenomics, paving the way towards evaluating the inherent variability and potential responses of marine biological communities to ongoing physical and chemical oceanographic conditions and changes. Primary focus is on species of fishery and food web importance in changing Northeastern Pacific, Alaskan, and Arctic waters, along with elucidating deep sea chemosynthetic community connectivity. Methods and findings are aimed to be readily applicable and usable across most aquatic ecosystems.
This vision and component projects are working to develop and apply translational biotechnology to improve assessments of living marine communities, paving the way to evaluate their responses to ecological conditions, while significantly saving time, personnel, resources, and money, alleviating ecosystem damage, and the loss of valuable species. The research will benefit ocean industries, which employ millions of Americans and support a strong economy.
Here are our Pacific Northwest Sampling sites: