Towards a biological Argo float.
Humans have long known about the physical attributes of the ocean – waves, tides, currents and temperatures. Since the 1800’s, deliberate measurements of depth, temperature and velocity have helped to build a low- resolution picture of the dynamic ocean. Argo is an international, collaborative program started in 2000 in which 3000 depth-profiling floats are deployed worldwide. These floats surface routinely and transmit salinity, temperature and depth data via satellite to data handling stations from where it is available to the global research community within 24 hours. Argo data have revolutionised physical oceanography and climate science.
Marine microbial ecology, in particular, how microbial community composition interacts with biogeochemical function in the ocean, is at the low-resolution phase of its history. With deep sequencing, we have the ability to take individual high-resolution samples but we do not yet have the global coverage required to make the connections between the bio and the geochemical.
We have a long-term goal of developing the microbiological equivalent of the Argo float. This requires a lot of hardware and “software” development. Hardware that can automatically sample, filter and process seawater and “software”, the genomic-based assays of microbial community structure that can be automated and miniaturised to work within the hardware. I will describe the development and rationale behind some of our array-based assays that might satisfy these criteria.