On June 21, 2014, the summer solstice, thousands of scientists will join together to participate in Ocean Sampling Day (OSD), an international collaboration to collect water samples from the ocean and rivers around the world. Within the water samples, scientists will also be collecting things so small that, in most cases, they are invisible to the naked eye. Some, in fact, are so tiny that up to a million of them can live in just one milliliter of seawater!
Microbial mats coated in white sulfate material were observed and sampled at several vent sites at West Mata in 2009. These mats were dominated by Epsilonproteobacteria which is a class of bacteria often associated with sulfur oxidation in marine environments. Click image for credit and larger view.
The nearly invisible items of scientific interest are living organisms that make up 98 percent of the biomass in Earth’s ocean and they are responsible for most of the biological activity that takes place within it. They are marine microbes - Bacteria, Archaea, Eukaryota, and viruses – and they are found everywhere, from the ocean surface to deep within rocks beneath the ocean floor.
Sheryl Bolton cultures microbes in the lab aboard the research vessel (R/V) Melville. Click image for credit and larger view.
Microbes are pervasive and can evolve rapidly in response to changes in the environment and could be used as indicators of ocean change. In fact, marine microbes are “the canary in the coal mine” for the marine environment. It is very important to acquire baseline information from all over the world against which future changes could be observed and measured. Detecting these environmental changes, however, depends on scientists knowing enough about marine microbes at one point in time to be able to recognize when changes have occurred at a later time. This is where Ocean Sampling Day comes in.
Initiated on the summer solstice in 2012, OSD organizes scientists from all over the world to collect the largest dataset on marine microbial diversity and function ever taken on a single day. OSD is now repeated on summer and winter solstice days with defined scientific procedures for how the samples are collected and what data is recorded at the time of collection, including date, time, location, air and water temperature, salinity, pH, and turbidity.
Additionally, how scientific water samples are stored and shipped to a specified laboratory for analysis and how they will be analyzed for certain characteristics/elements and archived is very clearly prescribed. In the U.S., NOAA is coordinating scientific sampling at approximately a dozen of its sites around the country during the summer OSD event.
To help fulfill NOAA’s mission of science, service, and stewardship and its vision of supporting biological resilience in an environment of continual change, the links below are provided to help increase awareness of OSD; help you understand how you might become more involved; and help you explore more of our little known, mostly unseen ocean world.
View a collection of photos of marine microbes in association with Ocean Sampling Day.
This overview of microbes (pdf, 289 kb) was produced by the NOAA Marine Microbes Working Group. For more information, contact Nathalie Valette-Silver.
The official European homepage of Ocean Sampling Day.
A video overview of some of the 2013 OSD sampling sites and participating scientists.
Become a Citizen Scientist and get out on a field trip with family and friends and collect environmental data for OSD. You can help scientist to unravel the mysteries of the marine microbial world with a few simple steps, which are shown in this video tutorial. Produced by mediomix GmbH.
Dr. Anna Klindworth, OSD Coordinator, MicroB3, addresses an international audience about OSD, March, 2014.
This map illustrates sites where sampling will take place on June 21.
Information and games about marine microbes.
Scientific Poster, Valette-Silver, N. et al., 2014 Ocean Sciences Meeting. (pdf, 167 kb)
Report (pdf, 2.4 Mb) from a scientific workshop held at the NOAA Hollings Marine Laboratory, Charleston, South Carolina, November 29-30, 2011.