Collaborating to save the ocean’s biodiversity
Climate change and other hazards are changing the composition of oceans—making it impossible for some species to survive.
The Ocean Genome Legacy, CSI’s on-site genetic repository, gathers and houses marine-species DNA to document and protect the sea’s biodiversity. It invites researchers worldwide to study these DNA materials and make advances in science, medicine, and other disciplines. OGL has forged creative partnerships with several organizations to build its collection, which now stands at more than 25,000 specimens.
For example, it’s working with the Seafood Industry Research Fund and the National Fisheries Institute to create a DNA catalog specific to seafood identification. Seafood substitutes—lower-priced species sold to consumers as higher-priced fish—are becoming increasingly common in the food industry. Yet there are few ways to properly identify and regulate many commercial seafood species. Developing a comprehensive catalog of seafood species will lead to more accurate DNA-based testing procedures, stronger regulations, and more sustainably sourced seafood, OGL director Dan Distel says.
OGL has also partnered with a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration research vessel, the Okeanos Explorer, to collect rare marine species around the world for OGL’s repository. In the past year, Okeanos has gathered DNA from hundreds of species in deep-sea locations in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Studying these specimens could have immediate and long-term benefits, Distel says. “In order to know how well we’re doing in terms of sustainability in the oceans, we need to know what species exist out there and the unexpected benefits that come from them.”
OGL has even partnered with the Smithsonian Institution on a worldwide initiative called the Global Genome Biodiversity Network. OGL was the first contributing member to that network, through which 60 marine institutes around the world make DNA samples available to scientists through a shared database. “It widens the network of species available for research of all kinds,” Distel says.
Author: CSI Staff