Phytoplankton Genetically Sequenced At Sea For The First Time

Viking Octanis (December 2021)Viking® announced its latest scientific advancement on board the company’s expedition fleet with the addition of real-time environmental DNA (eDNA) sequencing of phytoplankton.

With scientific support from UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography and J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI), the PCR lab on board the Viking Octantis® has been converted into an advanced scientific environment where visiting scientists contributing to the Genomics at Sea Program (GASP) are able to monitor the environmental impact on phytoplankton without the need to transport samples to a distant shoreside facility. This marks a significant milestone in marine research and exploration, as Viking becomes the first travel company to support real-time environmental genetic sequencing capabilities on board its vessels.

Today’s announcement is another example of Viking’s commitment that every expedition voyage should provide opportunities for meaningful scientific research and discovery. The onboard advancements and participation in GASP are an extension from Viking’s role collaborating with Fjord Phyto, a NASA-funded program by Scripps, which enables guests to participate in research and public education through sampling of polar phytoplankton for genetic population analyses.

“Ever since we created Viking Expeditions, it has always been our intention to help facilitate meaningful scientific work,” said Karine Hagen, Executive Vice President of Viking. “As we continue our third year of operating expeditions, we are pleased that we have been able to achieve our goal alongside esteemed scientific partners. By repurposing a technology that kept our guests safe in the height of the pandemic to gain valuable insights into our environment, we are providing a critical research opportunity for all of our future expedition voyages.”

The conversion of the PCR lab on board the Viking Octantis took place earlier this year while the ship was in Antarctica; Viking will regularly host Scripps scientists on board the ship this season in the Great Lakes. This summer, the PCR lab on board the identical sister ship, the Viking Polaris®, will also be transitioned to further support research efforts before both ships return to Antarctica later this year.

(Phytoplankton Genetically Sequenced At Sea For The First Time – Viking)