Global Ocean Sampling Expedition

The broad objective of the global ocean sampling expedition is to expand our understanding of the microbial world by studying the gene complement of marine microbial communities. Marine microbes influence the cycling of carbon (and other elements) in the world's oceans, acting as a biological conduit that transports carbon dioxide from the surface to the deep oceanic realms.

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By sequestering carbon from the atmosphere, marine microorganisms (eukaryotes, prokaryotes and viruses) may significantly affect global climate. How they do so, however, is poorly understood, and our attempts to study their activities are limited by our inability to culture the vast majority of them.

The SorcererII Research Vessel Courtesy - J.Craig Venter Institute
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One avenue of exploration is to sequence the genomes of marine microbes using a metagenomics approach. In Spring of 2003, the J. Craig Venter Institute conducted a whole environment shotgun sequencing project to study marine microorganisms in the nutrient-poor Sargasso Sea near Bermuda. This study revealed an unforeseen breadth and depth of microbial diversity - about 1,800 different microbial species encoding over 1.2 million genes were discovered, nearly doubling the number of prokaryotic genes available in public databases. Notably, this study expanded our knowledge of ocean photobiology and nutrient pools. Results from the pilot study were reported in Science in 2004.

This pilot study served as the springboard for launching a more comprehensive survey of the bacterial, archaeal and viral diversity of the world's oceans. A global circumnavigation aboard the Sorcerer II sailing yacht began in August 2003, starting in Halifax, Canada and samples were collected at sites along the U.S. east coast, Gulf of Mexico, Galapagos Islands, central and south Pacific Oceans, Australia, Indian Ocean, South Africa, across the Atlantic back to the U.S., and was completed in January 2006. An initial analysis of the microbial data from the first leg of the trip - Halifax to the Galapagos Islands - was reported in PLoS Biology in March 2007. Shotgun sequencing and deep sequencing of 16S and 18S rRNA continued on the samples from the Pacific and Indian Ocean during 2007 and 2008. JCVI released 2.4 million shotgun sequence reads to NCBI and CAMERA during April 2008.

These studies have produced the largest catalogue of genes to date from thousands of new species, with no apparent slowing of the rate of discovery (i.e., attaining saturation of data). These data have potentially far-reaching implications for biological energy production, bioremediation, and creating solutions for reduction/management of greenhouse gas levels in our biosphere. For more information, see the J.Craig Venter Institute's Global Ocean Sampling Project. Questions regarding the GOS dataset can be directed to

The GOS data is also available through NCBI .

JCVI has had many requests for GOS materials (clones, templates, DNA). Unfortunately, managing this large collection of materials is an expensive endeavor, and JCVI is not curently equipped to provide this service. JCVI is exploring the possibility of a 3rd party taking on this role, but there are no definitive plans as of yet.

The Route of the Global Ocean Sampling Expedition Courtesy - J.Craig Venter Institute
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