Global Ocean Sampling Expedition
Past Voyages Overview
Sorcerer II Circumnavigation 2004-2006
In 2004, Dr. Venter and his team at JCVI launched the Sorcerer II Global Ocean Sampling (GOS) Expedition. Inspired by 19th Century sea voyages like Darwin's on the H.M.S. Beagle and Captain George Nares on the H.M.S. Challenger, The Sorcerer II circumnavigated the globe for more than two years, covering a staggering 32,000 nautical miles, visiting 23 different countries and island groups on four continents. Funding for this voyage of the Sorcerer II came from the J. Craig Venter Science Foundation (now JCVI), the U.S. Department of Energy, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation
After a successful pilot project in the Sargasso Sea in 2003, Dr. Venter and his Expedition team set out to evaluate the microbial diversity in the world's oceans using the tools and techniques developed to sequence the human and other genomes. With a better understanding of marine microbial biodiversity, scientists will be able to understand how ecosystems function and to discover new genes of ecological and evolutionary importance. The Sorcerer II Expedition finished its circumnavigation in 2006 and Venter Institute scientists and collaborators published the results from the first phase of the Expedition in PLoS Biology in March 2007.
This publication ushered in a new era in genomics. The GOS data represent the largest metagenomic dataset ever put into the public domain with more than 7.7 million sequences or 6.3 billion base pairs of DNA. The sheer size and complexity of this dataset has necessitated new tools and infrastructure to allow researchers worldwide access and analysis capabilities. The Community Cyberinfrastructure for Advanced Marine Microbial Ecology Research and Analysis (CAMERA) is an online database and high-speed computational resource developed with funding from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation in a collaborative effort between UCSD's Division of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2) and JCVI. This first glimpse into the gene, protein and protein family world of microbes has shattered long held notions about evolution, function, and diversity.
When the first third of the Sorcerer II Global Ocean Sampling Expedition was published, Dr. Venter and his team realized (as stunning and extensive as these results were — six million new genes and thousands of new protein families) they had only scratched the surface of the microbial diversity in the oceans. The team decided to continue their journey but this time focusing on diverse and in some cases, extreme environments. From surface waters to deep sea thermal vents, high saline ponds and polar ice, JCVI scientists continued to add to the microbial "earth catalogue" in 2007 and 2008.
After some repairs and maintenance on the East Coast of the US, the Sorcerer II set sail in December 2006 from Virginia heading through the Chesapeake Bay, and then south along the East Coast of the United States. After a transit through the Panama Canal, the vessel headed north through Central American waters and on to Mexico sampling in the Sea of Cortez for an extensive time. The Expedition continued up the West Coast of the U.S. into Alaska. While in Alaska the Sorcerer II took samples in Glacier Bay National Park including water taken from melting glaciers there. After this Sorcerer headed south again to her home port of San Diego.
Throughout 2008, the Sorcerer II conducted extensive sampling in the waters off San Diego and the coast of California, Oregon and Washington. This was done to ensure that both coasts of the US had adequate samples taken. Much of this sampling was done onboard Sorcerer II but several excursions were conducted by JCVI scientists onboard other collaborators' vessels including those done with Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of Washington, Oregon Health and Science University, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, and the California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations.
Several JCVI researchers also participated in deep sea sampling cruises as part of expeditions onboard the R/V Atlantis which carries the deep sea submersible, Alvin. These expeditions were done in collaboration with scientists from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, University of Delaware, and other institutions The JCVI scientists were interested in sampling the underwater geysers in the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez to capture the viruses living in these extreme conditions.
JCVI scientists also conducted several sampling trips to Antarctica where they sampled via collaborator vessels along the route to Antarctica, and in several stratified lakes to understand the microbial diversity in these harsh polar conditions. These are the first metagenomic/metaproteomic studies conducted in such low temperature extremes.