The UN Decade-endorsed Ocean Biomolecular Observing Network (OBON) and partners will discuss how biomolecular research can enable broadscale science-based conservation and sustainable development.

Thursday 30 June, 6-7.30 pm Lisbon time (UTC+1)

Full details at the Event page:

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Organising Partners:

Partnership for Observation of the Global Ocean (POGO); Scripps Institution of Oceanography, USA; Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), USA; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), USA; Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn, Italy; Marine Biological Association, UK; AtlantECO (EU project); Alfred Wegener Institute, Germany



The Ocean Biomolecular Observing Network (OBON) uses techniques to analyse biomolecules such as DNA, RNA, and proteins (e.g., eDNA analysis, metabarcoding, omics) to greatly enhance coastal and open ocean biodiversity observations. We exploit the fact that every lifeform in the ocean, from viruses to the largest marine mammals, contains or leaves behind a biomolecular trace (e.g., nucleic acids) that can be analysed directly from a tissue, seawater or sediment sample. The programme will utilize biomolecular technologies to monitor, research and understand life in the sea at every trophic level and scale, how life varies in response to climate and anthropogenic impacts, including fisheries, and how these changes impact society.

Atlantic Ecosystem Assessment

The ambition of AtlantECO is to develop and apply a novel, unifying framework for providing knowledge-based resources to design policies, support decision-making and engage with citizens to encourage responsible behaviour to manage the Atlantic system and protect its Ecosystem Services (ES) provision. The aim of AtlantECO is to determine the structure and function of Atlantic microbiome in the context of ocean circulation and presence of pollutants, e.g., plastics, to assess its role in driving the dynamics of Atlantic ecosystems at basin and regional scales; its potential of being used as a sensor of ecosystem state and the mechanisms by which it drives the provision of ES. This is key to improve our predictions on future provision of ES in the basin and to favour the establishment of a sustainable Blue Growth strategy for an All-Atlantic community.

European Marine Omics Biodiversity Network

The European Marine Omics Biodiversity Observation Network (EMO BON) is an initiative from the ESFRI (European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures) research infrastructure EMBRC-ERIC (European MArine Biological REsource Centre). EMO BON aims to establish a coordinated, long-term, marine biodiversity observatory. By bringing together individual biological observation stations, EMBRC provides the context and opportunity for partner institutions to participate in EMO BON, and build a modern biodiversity observation framework for Europe. Currently, EMO BON includes 16 marine stations, located from the Arctic to the Red Sea, which regularly sample for genomic marine biodiversity. EMO BON generates high-quality genomic biodiversity data that will be made openly accessible and thereby support constructive dialogue towards a holistic understanding of our ocean.

Western Channel Observatory Biomolecular Observing Network

The Western Channel Observatory – Biomolecular Observing Network (WCO BON) will build on the successes of over a century of continuous biological observations (including 20 years of DNA sampling) by combining with innovative autonomous solutions for sampling, data capture and development of predictive capability through biological digital twins. The observatory covers almost 1,000 km2 of coastal ocean in the Western English Channel adjacent to the city of Plymouth; home to three world-leading marine research organisations. Biomolecular observations will help map key biodiversity knowledge through temporal and spatial monitoring, with the bigger challenge of determining the biological functional capacity of this immense evolving marine genomic reservoir. Our ambition is to achieve integrated global biomolecular observations and data sharing through networks of excellence and capacity development. Its predictive capability will ultimately revolutionise sustainable ocean management.

Naples Ecological Research Augmented Observatory

The augmented observatory NEREA ( is an initiative for integrating and augmenting the Marechiara LTER (Long Term Ecological Research, active since 1983) in the Gulf of Naples with moorings, stand-alone seabed platform, regular short cruises across gradients (polluted vs pristine sites, vertical dimension, oligotrophy/eutrophic) and question-driven process studies, using both innovative (genomics,imaging-both HD and acoustic cameras, microplastics sampling) and traditional techniques (including trace elements analyses). The NEREA project is thus designed to promote and to apply multidisciplinary approaches, from the sampling strategy, to the development of new indicators for ocean health and of new models of the ocean microbiomes.

Pacific eDNA Coastal Observatory

Molecular observational technologies have the capacity to transform how we observe biodiversity, allowing us to track biotic responses to ocean change and inform management practice. In order to develop the capacity for a molecular monitoring network to track, understand, and predict biodiversity changes, we have launched the Pacific eDNA Coastal Observatory (PECO, 2021-2030). Our growing network spans a latitudinal cross-section of 26 degrees latitude (Alaska to Southern California), in a cross-national region of high economic and social interest in marine resource management. Our partners simultaneously collect environmental DNA alongside visual surveys, with centralized metabarcoding. Our project will develop efficient tools, platforms and networks to enable the use of environmental DNA for broad-scale biogeographic assessment, build capacity to track biodiversity changes in time, and connect users with updatable predictive tools on biodiversity changes throughout the Ocean Decade.

Scripps Ecological Observatory

The Scripps Ecological Observatory (SEO) establishes an intensive modern observational program at the Ellen Browning Scripps Pier at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. The SEO builds on over a century of environmental observations at the Scripps Pier and will consolidate and improve ongoing measurements, while applying new and emerging technologies to understand ecological change at a fine temporal scale and unprecedented level of detail. These technologies include automated, high-throughput in situ microscopy, molecular sampling techniques, and in situ sampling of dissolved gasses. Our goal is a publicly available, high quality, high resolution, and continuous record of key environmental variables that will be used to model marine ecosystem dynamics and predict future change.

Hakai Institute Biomolecular Observing Network

HI-BON is a highly coordinated network of partners across British Columbia, Canada who are using long-term genetic-based assessments of marine biodiversity to create baselines, track changes through time, and provide local-scale biodiversity data in remote areas. The taxonomic focus of this research is broad, with core initiatives quantifying the diversity of fish, invertebrates, and microbes. Biomolecular sampling began at the Hakai Institute in November 2014 and has now grown to a large-network of over 20 partners collecting monthly samples across the BC coast. Our network emphasizes: 1. Standardization of biomolecular monitoring approaches in BC, with the goal to align with global OBON standards. 2. Building capacity by developing community partnerships to enhance spatial and temporal coverage. 3. Open data and contribution to a broad coalition of partners across regional and global communities (i.e. GOOS) to assist in conservation and sustainable management of BC waters and beyond.

Better Biomolecular Ocean Practices

Methodological information is essential to understand the biomolecular data it generates (its limitations, strengths, and the ability to integrate and compare it with other datasets). However, in the biomolecular community, this information is often buried in publications that lack sufficient detail and are neither machine readable nor actionable. Within the IOC-UNESCO OBPS system, we have started an effort to exhume and empower these critical information artifacts. Under OBON, we propose building upon and expanding those efforts into a project for the digitisation of omics protocols from long-term observatories around the world using machine-readable templates and metadata. This will leverage and advance activities to develop protocol templates and metadata specifications, while working with strategic OBON partners in ocean observing and contributing to OBON’s aims for capacity sharing and inter-programme coordination (OBON – OceanPractices).

Observing and Promoting Atlantic Microbiomes

Marine microbiomes are at the heart of the living ocean, driving its biogeochemical cycles, forming the basis of its food webs and performing essential and some yet unknown functions in climate regulation. The oceans are a largely untapped resource for biodiscovery and the bioeconomy, with a high potential for the development of new products and processes. The Atlantic Ocean Marine Microbiome Working Group (MMWG) is a cooperative effort between Canada, the European Union and the United States of America, which strives to bring together science, industry and policy makers to advance the “Next Great Exploration of the Oceans”. This project will provide a vehicle for DFO, as a member of the MMWG, to contribute to the goals of the UN Ocean Decade through participation in the biomolecular observing network, focusing on microbiomes. Knowledge generating activities tie directly into the dissemination of knowledge around microbiome ecology and ecosystem services in collaboration with the MMWG.

DNA-based approaches for fisheries

An Atlantic network for marine fish monitoring in the scope of the Atlantic Interactions, using DNA-based and other approaches. Once fully established, this network will provide broad-scale data to support scientific advice on sustainable management and conservation of fisheries resources and fish biodiversity all through the Atlantic. To accomplish these goals a partnership was established between academic, research and governmental institutions in Portugal, Cape Verde and Brazil, therefore assuring direct application of the project’s research and output. The multidisciplinary project’s team integrates research experts covering the full sweep of competences and scientific background involved in the project’s topics, namely in DNA-based approaches for biomonitoring, ichthyoplankton identification and ecology, fish ecology and fisheries research, bioinformatics and statistics.

OBON data strategy

Throughout its operation, OBON will rely on distributed, federated, and quality controlled (meta)data and information to build trustworthy knowledge across scales. Thus, OBON will treat data and information products (e.g. datasets, data streams) as first-class citizens, subject to rigorous review, standardization, and validation. OBON will provide coordination and assistance in federating partners around shared conventions, which all OBON partners are invited to co-develop to make sure that their data, information and digital knowledge products will be (re)usable across OBON partners. In this talk, we will briefly describe the core principles of the Program’s data strategy.

Speaker Biographies

Margaret Leinen

Margaret Leinen is the director of Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego and is an award-winning oceanographer and distinguished national and international leader in ocean science, global climate and environmental issues. Her research in paleo-oceanography and paleo-climatology focuses on ocean sediments and their relationship to global biogeochemical cycles and the history of Earth’s ocean and climate.

Daniele Ludicone

Daniel Iudicone is a researcher at the Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn Napoli and combines experimental, numerical and theoretical tools using a fully multidisciplinary approach, collaborating with molecular biology, bioinformatics and ecology teams.

Nicolas Pade

Nicolas Pade is the executive director of the European Research Infrastructure EMBRC-ERIC (European Marine Biological Resource Centre-European Research Infrastructure Consortium). He has been working in the field of research infrastructures for 10 years, both at national and international levels. He holds a PhD from the University of Aberdeen in the molecular and spatial ecology of marine top predators.

Willie Wilson

Willie Wilson is the director of the Marine Biological Association and is a self-described “virus evangelist,” spreading the good word through research, collaboration, and outreach on how viruses are lubricants of the great engines of planetary control. His research focuses on the diverse roles of marine viruses; including algal viruses, giant viruses, coral viruses, persistent virus infections, and the paradox of how viruses are necessary for life.

Raffaella Casotti

Raffaella Casotti is based at the Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn Napoli as a microbial ecologist, focusing on microbes interactions, mainly diatoms and bacteria. She uses metagenomics, metatranscriptomics, CARD-FISH as tools, but is a specialist in flow cytometry. She uses conventional and also dedicated, automatized and programmable flow cytometers to count and measure optical properties of marine phytoplankton and bacteria on cultures and in situ, during oceanographic cruises and from floating buoys at fixed points.

Jennifer Sunday

Jennifer Sunday is an assistant professor at McGill University. She is interested in understanding how species distributions respond to environmental change, through direct effects, adaptive capacities, and biotic interactions. She uses experiments and theory to predict, and environmental DNA to observe, how population and communities change through time. She focuses mainly on marine, but also terrestrial ecosystems, to understand global and general processes.

Andrew Barton

Andrew Barton is a biological oceanographer and ecologist interested in the physiology and ecology of marine microbes, as well as their macroecology, biogeography, and biodiversity. I am particularly interested in the impacts of climate variability on marine ecosystems, and how these changes may feed back on global biogeochemical cycles.

Jeff Bowman

Jeff Bowman is an assistant professor in biological oceanography at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego. His research explores many aspects of marine, terrestrial, and host microbial ecology. He uses sequence based approaches, flow cytometry, modeling, and other techniques to explore the structure and function of microbial communities, and to understand the role of microbes in the Earth system.

Colleen Kellogg

Colleen Kellogg is a research scientist at the Hakai Institute in British Columbia, Canada. Her research focuses on employing genomic methods to understand marine biodiversity, with particular expertise in microbial ecology and eDNA approaches. She brings these biomolecular data together with key physical, chemical and biological oceanographic data with the aim to provide improved understanding of the structure and functioning of the local ecosystems, their seasonal and interannual cycles, and response to environmental change.

Matt Lemay

Matt Lemay is a research scientist at the Hakai Institute in British Columbia. His research uses genomic approaches to study marine biodiversity, with specific expertise in population genetics, DNA barcoding, and environmental DNA (eDNA). He is currently managing a number of collaborative research projects that leverage the use of eDNA to inform the monitoring and management of marine biodiversity along the Pacific coast.

Kathleen Pitz

Kathleen Pitz is a senior research technician at Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. Her research focuses on the use of environmental DNA to examine changes in biological community structure through time and space.

Alice Ortmann

Alice Ortmann is a researcher at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography who is interested in understanding the role of microbes in degradation of oil spills and how we can optimize their activity to minimize impacts. She uses a combination of field sampling and lab experiments where she studies changes to the abundance and diversity of microbes and links those to changes in the chemistry of the oil. She also has an interest in expanding my research to understanding the fate and behaviour of microplastics.

Filipe Costa

Filipe Costa is an associate professor at the university of Minho. He is broadly interested in the description and interpretation of the biological and ecological basis for the genetic diversity of natural populations and species over time and space. His main research target organisms and communities have been mostly crustaceans, fish and the marine benthos. Currently his focus is in the development and application of high-thoughput sequencing DNA metabarcoding and eDNA metabarcoding for environmental monitoring of marine organisms and communities.

Raïssa Meyer

Raïssa Meyer is a PhD candidate in marine microbiology. Her re­search in mi­cro­bial eco­logy ap­plies bioin­form­at­ics and data sci­ence to in­vest­ig­ate the dy­nam­ics of the liv­ing ocean. She is lead­ing a col­lab­or­at­ive ef­fort between ocean ob­ser­vat­or­ies to pro­to­type a net­work of in­ter­op­er­able omic biod­iversity data ex­change and ana­lysis. She is us­ing on­to­lo­gies and di­gital ex­change stand­ards to build a sus­tain­able, solid, and ex­tend­able found­a­tion for this work.

Pier Luigi Buttigieg

Pier Luigi Buttigieg is a postdoctoral research associate at the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology. His work fo­cuses on the com­bin­a­tion of se­mantics, bioin­form­at­ics, and data ana­lysis in aid of mean­ing­fully mo­bil­ising eco­lo­gical data and de­tect­ing struc­ture in this com­plex and plastic con­text. He ap­plies om­ics-fo­cused bioin­form­at­ics and mul­tivari­ate stat­ist­ics (see​gust­ame) to the di­verse data sets de­rived from mi­cro­bial eco­logy in­vest­ig­a­tions. He also develops resources to assist microbial ecologists in learning and effectively using these techniques.

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