Sequence Issue #2: The Next Big Wave

Published: August 28th 2017

Recently, Genome Atlantic’s Andy Stone and Stantec’s Marc Skinner teamed up at the monthly Ocean Connector in Halifax to talk about some of the latest genomics-based technologies making waves in ocean research.

Here in Atlantic Canada, we are seeing exciting applications of genomics technologies to solve problems in the offshore oil and gas industry.  One large-scale genomics project is studying microbiologically-influenced corrosion (MIC), a poorly understood phenomenon that accounts for 20% of structural corrosion in oil and gas pipelines.  Predicting how, where and why microbes cause corrosion would be a big win for the oil and gas industry and for the environment. This project has generated considerable attention from the industry and media alike – and this issue of Sequence takes a deeper dive into the project’s offshore component along with some insight from one of the world’s foremost MIC experts on how genomics just might provide the answer.

Genomics is also being used to de-risk offshore petroleum exploration in Nova Scotia’s offshore.   The Play Fairway Analysis completed in 2011 brought $2 billion in exploration activities to the province. Now, genomics is being combined with geology to paint an even clearer picture of petroleum deposits. We’ll have more to report on this exciting story in a future issue of Sequence.

Environmental DNA (eDNA) is another emerging genomics technology that is quickly becoming the Gold Standard for measuring and monitoring species and environmental samples.  eDNA works by collecting and analyzing biological material that organisms leave behind and matching them to specific species.

At the Ocean Connector, Marc Skinner talked about eDNA’s use as an environmental monitoring tool in aquaculture – you can read about it in his blog.  In New Brunswick, the Canadian Rivers Institute has been successfully using eDNA to study wetlands and fish populations in rivers.  Genome BC is leading a project using eDNA to monitor White Sturgeon, an endangered species in Canada.  And earlier this summer, Newfoundland launched the world’s first environmental genomics research centre that will employ eDNA to help industry and researchers monitor the marine environment.  (For a futuristic look at environmental sampling, check out this video Andy shared at the event on the Environmental Sample Processor from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute.)

*** PROJECT UPDATES ***  We want to share with you a couple of agriculture stories too.  One is about a unique genomics research project that could turn an oilseed wonder into a more sustainable feed ingredient for farmed fish – a potential win-win for both our regional aquaculture and agriculture sectors. We also sat down recently for a one-on-one with Kelci Miclaus, a leading genomics software developer with JMP Genomics/SAS. Kelci was the keynote speaker at an agriculture and genomics conference that Genome Atlantic hosted in New Brunswick in June. Her perspective on how genomics is transforming agriculture is fascinating. Enjoy!

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