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 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, Head of International Collaboration, LMSU Marine Research Center, 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 crew members and citizen explorers who will serve as Mission Specialists for this important ecological study. Aspiring Mission Specialists interested in supporting the 2022 Titanic Expedition should contact OceanGate Expeditions for qualifications, availability, and additional details.