Titanic Expedition to Embark on Groundbreaking Environmental DNA Deep Water Biodiversity Study Through OceanGate Expeditions and eDNAtec Partnership
In the first-of-its-kind environmental genomics analysis of the 3800-meter-deep artificial reef, researchers aim to develop a richer picture of the
biodiversity on and around the wreck of the Titanic.
March 15, 2022 – LONDON, UK – From the tradeshow floor of Oceanology (OI) 2022, OceanGate Expeditions and eDNAtec today announced plans to gather environmental DNA (eDNA) water samples throughout all five missions of the 2022 Titanic Survey Expedition. The submersible crews will collect water samples at depths throughout the water column to gain a clearer understanding of the biodiversity of the deep ocean artificial reef created by the wreck of the Titanic.
“This is groundbreaking deep-sea research. The deeper you go into the ocean, the less knowledgeable we are. This study will give us an entirely different view of this one-of-a-kind habitat while also adding substantially to shared deep water DNA data sets,” says marine biology expert Dr. Steve W. Ross. “Our primary goal is to publish the most important findings so the results are available to researchers, marine biologists, and scientists for future studies and comparison. Water samples taken and analyzed using advanced genomics technologies will not only help us identify the lifeforms we can directly observe from the Titan submersible, but will also give us a full picture of the lifeforms we cannot see. This includes invisible signs of both microscopic creatures and larger animals that leave traces of DNA in the water surrounding the Titanic. This research effort will contribute to conservation of the ecosystem of the wreck site,” continues Dr. Ross.
“We will conduct a longitudinal eDNA study to document the marine biodiversity of the Titanic’s deep-water ecosystem,” explains Dr. Mehrdad Hajibabaei, an internationally recognized expert in biodiversity genomics and Founder and CSO of eDNAtec. “Utilizing EnviroSeq, our advanced eDNA sequencing approach, we will generate a complete view of organisms in an ecosystem using high-capacity sequencing platforms that generate billions of genomic sequences.”
According to Dr. Hajibabaei, environmental genomics is contributing in an unprecedented way to our ability to study and monitor biodiversity directly from bulk environmental samples, such as water, soil and sediments. “This is one of the deepest and most ambitious studies we have undertaken. This partnership will contribute to the growing body of data that is informing our understanding of deep oceans and the extraordinary spectrum of species that play important roles in those ecosystems.”
The OceanGate Expeditions 2022 Titanic Expedition marine biology crew is comprised of marine biologists from the U.S. and Scotland including Dr. Steve Ross, Research Professor, University of North Carolina at Wilmington; Dr. Lea-Anne Henry, Chancellor’s Fellow, School of Geosciences, University of Edinburgh; Dr. Murray Roberts, Professor of Applied Marine Biology & Ecology, University of Edinburgh, and Dr. Anna Gebruk, Scientific Project Manager, University of Edinburgh. The expeditionary crew will also include environmental DNA experts from eDNAtec including Beverly McClenaghan, Senior Ecologist, eDNAtec. These studies are supported by OceanGate Foundation, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, which provides financial support for marine research and applied technology. eDNAtec will conduct the eDNA analyses in their state-of-the-art research centre, the Centre for Environmental Genomics Applications (CEGA), in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada.
The crew will be further supported by OceanGate Expeditions crewmembers and citizen explorers who will serve as Mission Specialists for this important ecological study. Aspiring Mission Specialists interested in supporting the Titanic Survey Expedition should contact OceanGate Expeditions for qualifications, availability, and additional details.
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ABOUT OCEANGATE EXPEDITIONS
OceanGate Expeditions, Ltd is dedicated to direct human exploration of the undersea world. Not satisfied with scratching the surface of the ocean near the shoreline, OceanGate Expeditions charters manned submersibles to create expeditions at depths far deeper than can be reached with SCUBA. The organization conducts undersea expeditions to explore and document the 95% of the seafloor that man has never visited including iconic shipwrecks, hydrothermal vents, deep-sea canyons, and uncommon biological events around the world. These expeditions, to depths approaching 4,000 meters (13,123 feet), provide rare opportunities for citizen scientists to observe the mysteries of the deep sea and expand our understanding of our home, Earth, the blue planet.
eDNAtec Inc. are specialists in environmental genomics – dedicated to transforming how to assess, characterize and monitor ecosystems using DNA sequencing and supporting environmental stewardship of our planet’s marine and terrestrial ecosystems.
Since 2015, eDNAtec has delivered hundreds of remediation and ecological genomics projects for clients around the world. CEGA , eDNAtec’s R&D centre, is fully dedicated to the application of genomics to environmental characterization and monitoring. eDNAtec is working closely with the world’s ocean industries, including energy and fisheries as well as the Government of Canada and Indigenous communities, to bring genomics to mainstream environmental assessment and monitoring. Visit www.ednatec.com.
ABOUT OCEANGATE FOUNDATION
OceanGate Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to fueling underwater discoveries in nautical archaeology, marine sciences, and subsea technology through public outreach and supplemental financial support. The organization was founded by entrepreneurs with a passion for ocean exploration who want to expand the world’s appreciation and understanding of the deep ocean. Since 2010, OceanGate Foundation has been providing supplemental financial support to augment primary research grants that enable to efficiently conduct extended and enhanced research studies during expeditions occurring in locations across the globe.