Tuesday, 16 September 2014

PLOS Biology 2014–The Common Oceonographer: Crowscourcing the Collection of Oceanographic Data

We are proud to announce that we just published a landmark paper on our concept of citizen oceanography in Plos Biology, the highest impact journal of biological sciences. The response has been incredibly encouraging and comments ranged from "its about time" to "when can I sign up??" The world is filled with wonderful people indeed.


Thursday, 17 July 2014

A Worldwide Scientific Adventure for Biodiversity: The Ocean Sampling Day, a Global Event for Sequencing the Ocean

Indigo V Expeditions takes part in Ocean Sampling Day in Singapore.

On 21 June this year a worldwide sampling campaign for microbial biodiversity within marine surface water will take place in which Indigo V Expeditions and NTU/SCELSE will join. This campaign encompasses more than 150 marine research locations from Iceland to Antarctica and from Moorea (French Polynesia) via the Americas to South Africa.

This worldwide effort is performed for the first time and coordinated jointly by Jacobs University in Bremen, Germany and University of Oxford, UK. It is launched under the umbrella of the European-funded project Micro B3 boosting marine research and innovation opportunities. Though tiny, marine microbes are one hundred times more abundant in the ocean than there are stars in the galaxy. They play critical roles in converting carbon dioxide to organic matter and in regulating nutrient cycling, which serves as the bedrock fro the food web. The data generated from Ocean Sampling Day will provide a valuable worldwide snapshot of ocean health. This baseline data will be a useful resource to establish a data 'baseline' that will grow with subsequent Ocean Sampling Days in the coming years.

To that degree, The Smithsonian Institute will be storing one biological sample from each spot around the world in their archives for future comparison. Indigo V Expeditions is dedicated to ongoing global ocean health monitoring by bridging oceanographers and world cruisers. By equipping cruisers with autonomous sampling equipment, we can collect critical data by utilizing existing cruising routes that can be monitored year after year.

SCELSE's research focuses on the advanced understanding of complex microbial communities in engineered and natural systems, including the marine environment. Involvement in Ocean Sampling Day reflects its commitment to a broader scientific fraternity by participating in community science efforts.

Staffan Kjelleberg, Director of SCELSE, says, "SCELSE is proud to support Indigo V and Ocean Sampling Day 2014, which will establish an invaluable database that will benefit microbial ecologists and marine ecologists alike. Science is only beginning to unravel the diversity and complexity of marine microbial communities and although their importance to a healthy and sustainable world is well understood, we still have much to learn.Large scale initiatives such as Ocean Sampling Day will provide much needed knowledge on marine microbial communities and foster interest in the roles they play in many ecosystems."

Associate Professor & Captain Federico Lauro and Ms. Rachelle Lauro, First Mate and Co-Founder of Indigo V Expeditions will be joined aboard S/Y Indigo V by SCELSE/EOS Research Fellows: Drs. Daniela Drautz, Jamie Hinks, Thomas Seviour and Patrick Martin.

The Micro B3 project, together with Ocean Sampling Day, endeavours to share fairly any benefits arising from the exploration and exploitation of marine genetic resources. The OSD will demonstrate that joint and standardized work as well as clear data-sharing agreements support not only improved ecosystem knowledge but also sustainable use of marine genetic resources e.g. for potential biotechnological applications. Indigo V participants will extract seawater samples containing myriads of microorganisms for sequencing of their genes. This, together with environmentally relevant measurements, will enable us to determine the health status of the coastal waters in the Singapore region.  

More pictures and details can be found at: www.indigovexpeditions.com

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

The Indigo team is alive and well (Rachelle made a video to prove it)

In the past few months, the Indigo team has been a little out of touch, very busy analyzing all the data that we collected during our 2013 expedition. Moreover, we've been busy planning our voyages for 2014, 2015 and beyond...

We've also had one review paper accepted in Marine Genomics and an accepted presentation at the EGU meeting at the end of april.

But most importantly, sometime ago, our videographer Rachelle made a short video of our endeavours (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uq1VDEYgVuc). Turns out that our video has been selected as a finalist for the ASM’s Global Video Challenge – YAY!

But here's the scoop: in addition to first, second, and third place, ASM will also award a People’s Choice Award.

Starting today, YOU can vote on your favourite video on the ASM website (click here<https://www.asm.org/index.php/gvc> to visit the page!). Voting is open until March 20, at 11:59PM.

I hope you will vote for our video and spread the word to all your family, colleagues and friends. Every vote counts!

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Final Thoughts

We finally made it into Phuket; Au Chalong to be precise.  This marks the end of our scientific endeavours as we cannot sample in economic zones.  It's hard to believe that we made it all the way across the Indian Ocean and living as a land-lubber is staring us in the face.  We thought very briefly about continuing on, but that we have much to do here and hitting the high seas again will have to wait until our 2014 Expedition.  

I had a haunting feeling during our crossing that the oceans were virtually empty, somehow--and incredibly--devoid of life.  Sure we saw a pod of whales, two pods of dolphins, caught precious few fish and birds were few and far between, but the Indian Ocean is considered to be one of the worlds last untouched oceans.  Still many many days passed where we saw absolutely no sign of life.  Could it be that such a vast ocean supports so little life?  And if so, what could we expect to see on the Pacific or the Atlantic...  Anything at all?  

With this on my mind, I read a Sydney Morning Herald article: The Ocean Is Broken, about Newcastle yachtsman Ivan Macfadyen's experiences of his ocean crossings and the sobering state of the worlds oceans as he saw it.  He reports "huge tangles of synthetic rope, fishing lines and nets. Pieces of polystyrene foam by the million. And slicks of oil and petrol, everywhere. Countless hundreds of wooden power poles are out there, snapped off by the killer wave and still trailing wires in the middle of the sea."  He describes part of journey as 'sailing through a garbage tip.'  

As we sailed through some of the most remote atolls in the Maldives, we saw water bottles floating around, flip-flops, household detergent bottles and diapers.  The floating debris got worse as we approached Male, the main tourist hub of the Maldives.  In Thailand, we saw black rubbish bags filled with trash floating on the sea.  And single-use plastic bags were ubiquitous.  
It's tempting to think that whatever is happening to the worlds oceans does not affect life on land.  But that is just not the case.  A recent article in the The Strait Times in Singapore reports what we all knew already: that the world's fisheries are collapsing as a result of over-fishing.  

The good news is that sustainable fishing practices are starting to emerge.  The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) along with the World Wife Fund for Nature (WWF) organised Singapore's first Sustainable Seafood Business Forum.  The bad news is that fish from sustainable fisheries can cost anywhere from 20-40% more.    

There is plenty that we can all do, however.  We can forego the use of single-use plastic bags and bring our own reusable bag when you we shopping.  We can also change our buying habits by supporting sustainable fisheries.  Little things like that multiplied across millions of people has a tremendous impact.  

In the meantime, 
we will be busy forming the Indigo Foundation that will fund our future expeditions and the development of the sampling kits that will be fitted to our world cruiser participants.  Our work depends on the cooperation of our fellow cruisers.  If you are interested in participating, please contact Rachelle Lauro on rachelle (at) indigoexpeditions.com to be added to our growing list.  

Saturday, 2 November 2013


Leg 3 from Maldives to Phuket marks the most scientifically interesting leg so far. Certainly, the samples we took from Chagos will be pivotal and ground-breaking, but this leg sees us through the worlds busiest shipping channel. We are looking at how metals leaching from the tankers affects the overall health of the microbial ecosystem.
It was interesting to see that the shipping lane itself was highly organized and limited to a relatively narrow span of ocean.  There were no errant tankers headed every which way.  They all proceeded one after another; it was almost as if outgoing vessels took the north side of the 'lane' and incoming vessels took the south side, just like any freeway. It does make sense though as the international rules for preventing collision at sea specify that in a head-on situation each vessel should leave the other on it's port side. As a net result the ships are keeping the 'right lane' (even in Commonwealth countries).
We cut transects across the shipping channels and with the handy use of our AIS, we were able to avoid becoming a fly on the windscreen of these massive ships.  For those who are old enough to remember the classic videogame of frogger, this is what Indigo was playing in the shipping lane. Here is a shot of Jay Cullen and Joe Grzymski taking a water sample from the wake of a passing ship.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Dolphin Escort

Just never get tired of these!!!  For some while, we had an interesting bioluminescent phenomenon.  Instead of some blue green sparkles, we saw large blobs glowing just to the side of our hull which would light up en masse making the ocean look as though it was boiling with an eerie green glow. 
If it couldn't get any better, a pod of dolphins darted in and out of the glowing boiling waters. We couldn't see the actual animal but we could see torpedo-like wakes that also glowed as the dolphins played on our bow. Of course, we couldn't film that, so everybody at home will just have to settle for a 'regular' bow shot!

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Arriving & Departing in Male

 It's been a blissful few days cruising the archipelago of the Maldives.  The reefs are surprisingly healthy & abundant (at least on the outer atolls) and who can complain about good food and good company?  Male is quite a culture shock from the more serene places that we have been.  There is open burning of trash & so much of it is floating on the surface of the water (even in the most remote of places).
I've seen cola-cola bottles, water bottles, flip-flops, dish detergent bottles, plastic bottles and more plastic bottles.  We went ashore while we were in Chagos and filled two large trash bags with plastic bottles that had washed ashore on the ocean current.  It is depressing to see so little concern for the very thing that gives us humans so much.