Winter 2013 – Note from the Research Board Chair

(From Winter 2013 Newsletter) Dr. Rita Colwell, University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University

Welcome to the inaugural newsletter of the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI). This quarterly e-newsletter provides readers with updates from the GoMRI-funded scientific teams and their research results. To date GoMRI has invested more than $175 million in funded proposals that include more than 1400 researchers, students and staff working in 38 states and eight countries, representing 150 institutions.

GoMRI research investments cut across many disciplines and are focused on the five GoMRI themes. Illustrative of the newest scientific tools employed in GoMRI research is genomics. Several GoMRI scientists are using DNA sequencing and metagenomics to monitor temporal changes in populations, both in the presence and absence of oil and dispersants. Other GoMRI scientific teams are using genomics to monitor gene expression as an indicator of environmental perturbation.

The use of genomics to identify and quantify populations of novel and less familiar species has been made possible with rapid advances in methods for isolation and amplification of DNA and development of tools for rapid sequencing of DNA. Thus, it is now possible to identify individual species present in environmental samples. Microbial populations can be analyzed before and after a perturbation, such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. We can now understand impacts of these kinds of events on biological population structure.

Genomics also affords our scientists the ability to quantify gene expression. DNA microarray technology has given our scientists the ability to measure gene expression by determining relative abundance of specific gene transcripts. They are measuring environmentally triggered gene expression as an indicator of physiological response of cells/ organisms to changes in the environment. The scientists are able to use gene expression as an indicator of stress driven by environmental change. By screening large numbers of samples collected over time, it is possible to determine the genetic impact of a stress and follow recovery as well.

The GoMRI Research Board is very pleased with the progress of GoMRI researchers and we anticipate new and exciting results from their work that will aid in recovery of Gulf of Mexico waters and its biota.

[Back to the Winter 2013 Newsletter]