The Power of Small

By Shawn Robinson

In the biological world, the rapid advances in big data genetic technologies have allowed us unprecedented insights into how organisms function in and adapt to their ever-changing ecosystems. We are regularly unraveling the DNA code for different species in our quest to answer questions related to disease prevention, food production, industrial bio-products and general organism health.

We can now look at the very essence of our biology and see what genes are being turned off and on in relation to specific environmental stressors and even predict the potential for certain disease risks in the future for humans. The social and legal implications of this level of insight are still being grappled with, inside and outside of courtrooms.

One of the dramatic offshoots of the genetic technology has been the rebirth of the science of microbiology. In the past, up to 99% of the bacteria were not identifiable with classic taxonomic methods such as shape definition, ability to be stained, or the ability to digest sugars—now bacteria are regularly being identified through their DNA fingerprints. The field of microbial ecology has exploded with recent studies.

And it turns out that the bacteria all around us may be the “dark matter” that is holding all of our biological universe together—they’re involved in almost every aspect of life-processes with the various species. Perhaps this is not surprising as bacteria represented the first forms of life on this planet 3.5 billion years ago as stromatolites.

They have co-evolved with all the subsequent lifeforms from the start and can be found in every environment on earth. In medicine, studies such as the American Gut Project are showing direct linkages of bacteria to many of the current maladies that afflict the human condition such as: allergies, autism, autoimmune diseases, cancer, diabetes, gastric ulcers, inflammatory bowel diseases and obesity to name a few.

So it shouldn’t be surprising that bacteria also play a major role in aquatic ecosystem processes. Studies in Canada, United States, Norway, China, Australia and others are all using this genetic technology to help society understand the dynamics of underwater ecosystems and the health of the organisms within.

Do you have a gut feeling? The American Gut Project can help your explorations…

This technological approach with bacteria is also being applied within GAIN to help understand some of the ecological dynamics in aquaculture farms. Because bacteria grow in hours, microbes may match well with the time resolution of big data physical measurements and may become part of a method that can be used to fine-tune aquaculture activities.

 

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A key pillar of GAIN

By Bela H. Buck

Alfred Wegener was a famous German polar researcher, and the scientist who first proposed the theory of continental drift.

The Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), a centre within the institute that bears his name, continues this tradition of top-class science.

In November 2018, GAIN partner AWI travelled to Brazil as part of the GAIN project and met with colleagues from the Federal University of Rio Grande (FURG) to jointly identify innovative fields of research in the field of aquaculture feed. Another meeting will take place in 2019 in Bremerhaven, Germany.

Afterwards, a short stop-over was planned at the Private University EAFIT in Medellin in Colombia, where the main focus was on whether the results from GAIN could be part of the aquaculture training taking place there. There will also be another meeting in Germany in 2019. The interest in GAIN was clear and the wish to cooperate as well.

Recirculation facilities at the Alfred Wegener Institute.

The reconstruction measures of the recirculation systems are starting in order to adapt them to the requirements of the GAIN objectives. These include the candidate fish species turbot and sea bream. The experiments can begin after the end of the testing trials and the re-inoculation of the biofilters during the running-in phases. In March AWI will continue the first work block until around September 2019.

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GHOTI

By Joao G. Ferreira

The ‘word’ GHOTI was apparently coined in 1855. When I was a child, my father told me about it—he thought it was invented by George Bernard Shaw.

This pseudo-word is designed to illustrate the foolishness of English spellings: Tough gives you the F, Women provides the I, and Station the SH. Put it all together, you get a FISH.

Every two years, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, or FAO, releases a report called SOFIA. That stands for State of Fisheries and Aquaculture. The latest one came out in August 2018.

SOFIA tells us that farmed fish production now clearly surpasses wild catch—that’s a good thing—the best way to conserve wild fish is not to fish them.

We’re moving into a whole new era of precision farming, and GAIN is at the forefront of it.

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Good fish for the future

By Joao G. Ferreira

In 2018, a group of people from Europe, Canada, the US, and China came together with one purpose: to find ways to provide more and better fish for the coming generations.

My name is Joao G. Ferreira, and it is my pleasure to introduce you to the team that is developing GAIN. The chefs, scientists, and managers involved in GAIN will regularly be writing short pieces here, where we will share many exciting developments with you—welcome to the blue ocean millennium.

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