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Lab at Sea

Leonid Moroz at the University of Florida studies ctenophores, tiny muliticellular organisms that have nervous systems, but ones that are unlike any other nervous systems, reports Methagora, the Nature Methods blog. These and other interesting organisms live deep in the ocean, but bringing them back to the lab for study often means dealing with degraded samples.

"We cannot bring the sea to the lab, but we can bring a whole lab to the sea," Moroz tells Methagora.

With Ship-Seq — a ship outfitted with a sequencing lab — he has gone on two proof-of-principle voyages, one around Florida and the Bahamas and one to Palau.

At the suggestion of ship's captain, the researchers set up the lab within a shipping container, giving it a controlled environment. Moroz's lab at sea contains lab benches, anti-vibration tables, PCR machines, a water-purification system, and, of course, sequencers, namely the Life Technologies' Personal Genome Machine. The lab also has a satellite link to transfer data back to Florida.

For one of the trips, the scientist-sailors encountered roughs seas, Methagora notes. "People could not cope with the field conditions but the PGM machine could," Moroz says. Seasickness remedies are also on the lab's list of needed supplies.