Throughout the world, ocean observatories are being created to provide data needed to study and manage many coastal phenomena and processes. A critical aspect of this effort is the availability of sensors for a wide range of parameters – physical, chemical, and biological. Compared to physical oceanographic sensors such as those for temperature, conductivity, depth, and motion, however, biological sensing systems are in their infancy. This reflects in part the enormous complexity of the biota, with tens of thousands of species spanning a vast range of size and function. Here we propose a major step forward in the development and application of biological sensors through the acquisition of multiple robotic instruments that can be deployed together in an array configuration to obtain real-time data on a wide range of microorganisms and their metabolites. For many years, this has been a distant dream, but that dream is now close to reality with the development and commercialization of the Environmental Sample Processor (ESP) that is the centerpiece of this proposal. The ESP can be deployed subsurface for months at a time. It collects and processes water samples, identifies and enumerates harmful algal bloom (HAB) species, pathogens, and other microorganisms as well as the concentration of specific metabolites such as algal toxins, and relays the data to shore. To foster greater flexibility, the ESP has been designed with a microfluidic block which allows analytical modules of different types (e.g., quantitative PCR) to be placed downstream of the water processing core. A wide variety of organisms and chemicals of interest to science and society can be analyzed over time scales that are not otherwise possible, all in automated fashion. Potential applications of this instrument are numerous and diverse, as evidenced by the many programs and projects that will be enabled through this acquisition. This unique and revolutionary instrument and a specially designed mooring system are now commercially available and ready for deployment under real-world conditions. The Gulf of Maine, with its well-characterized and modeled HABs and microbial diversity and pathogen issues, is an ideal test site, and the research team assembled here, with its scientific and engineering expertise, is ideally suited to facilitate the transition of this important instrument from research to commercial production and broad-scale application.
Doucette, G.J., C.M. Mikulski, K.L. Jones, K.L. King, D.I. Greenfield, R. Marin III, S. Jensen, B. Roman, C.T. Elliott, and C.A. Scholin. 2009. Remote, subsurface detection of the algal toxin domoic acid onboard the Environmental Sample Processor: assay development and field trials. Harmful Algae. doi:10.1016/j.hal.2009.04.006.
Greenfield, D.I., R. Marin III, S. Jensen, E. Massion, B. Roman, J. Feldman, and C. Scholin. 2006. Application of the Environmental Sample Processor (ESP) methodology for quantifying Pseudo-nitzschia australis using ribosomal RNA-targeted probes in sandwich and fluorescent in situ hybridization. Limnol. & Oceanogr.: Methods 4: 426-435.
Greenfield, D., R. Marin III, G.J. Doucette, C. Mikulski, S. Jensen, B. Roman, N. Alvarado, C.A. Scholin. 2008. Field applications of the second-generation Environmental Sample Processor (ESP) for remote detection of harmful algae: 2006-2007. Limnol. & Oceanogr.: Methods 6: 667-679.
Rose, J.M., R.J. Gast, A. Bogomolni, J. Ellis, B. Lentell, K. Touhey, and M. Moore. Occurrence and patterns of antibiotic resistance in vertebrates off the Northeastern United States coast. FEMS Microbiology Ecol. 67: 421–431.
Scholin, C., G. Doucette, S. Jensen, B. Roman, D. Pargett, R. Marin III, C. Preston, W. Jones, J. Feldman, C. Everlove, A. Harris, N. Avarado, E. Massion, J. Birch, D. Greenfield, K. Wheeler, R. Vrijenhoek, C. Mikulski, and K. Jones. 2009. Remote detection of marine microbes, small invertebrates, harmful algae and biotoxins using the Environmental Sample Processor (ESP). Oceanogr. 22: 158-167.