National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce

New infrastructure increases processing capabilities of 'Omics Group

External Lab Van View
August 18, 2022

The 'Omics Group received a major upgrade to their lab infrastructure, a portable lab in a shipping container, commonly referred to as a lab van. This past week, the lab van was installed at NOAA's Western Regional Office and will serve as a clean lab for the group to process environmental (e)DNA samples. The lab van significantly increases the in-house sample processing capabilities for the group and decreases the cost of outsourcing several steps of the eDNA library prep process. The 'Omics Group was previously limited in their ability to process eDNA samples due to a lack of appropriate workspace, so the scientists are eager to begin using this dedicated space.

Environmental e(DNA) samples are highly prone to contamination risks; therefore, samples must be processed in designated clean areas kept separate from other types of molecular work and free from potential airborne contaminants. One of the main sterilization features of the Omics lab van is the UV lighting system that can irradiate the entire working space after each use. In addition, the built-in HEPA filters work to eliminate the risk of airborne contaminants. The workspace includes two Class II Biosafety cabinets, one for DNA extraction and one for PCR amplifications and sequencing library prep. The biosafety cabinets are enclosed, ventilated laboratory workspaces used for processing low biomass molecular samples. Other key features of the Omics lab van include a reverse osmosis (RO) system, ample secure storage, and a double entryway to maintain a sterile/positive pressure environment. The 'Omics Group employs eDNA to monitor biodiversity shifts in the Northeast Pacific and Alaska waters. Their biological data is then comparatively examined with physical and chemical oceanographic parameters to study ecosystem biodiversity and ocean health. Once their lab van is officially commissioned, the 'Omics Group will immediately take advantage of this new resource and eDNA samples for sequencing from the 2021 and current 2022 field seasons.  ​

Clean lab space for low biomass molecular work
Interior of the PMEL Omics Lab Van