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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Emerging Science Note/Sequencing Sargasso

Air Date: Week of May 2, 2003

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Living on Earth’s Cynthia Graber reports on plans to map the genome of every organism in the Sargasso Sea.

Transcript

CURWOOD: Coming up: Pink is not so pretty, say the critics of farmed salmon.

First, this Note on Emerging Science from Cynthia Graber.

[SCIENCE NOTE THEME]

GRABER: Craig Ventner headed one of the efforts to map the human genome. Now, he’s going to map the genetic structure of an entire ecosystem.

The Sargasso Sea is a body of water in the Atlantic. It lies between the West Indies, Bermuda and the Azores, and it’s ideal for such an ambitious project because it’s relatively devoid of life--and so relatively easy to document.

To sequence all of the genes of all of the life-forms in the Sargasso, Ventner’s team is using tools developed for the human genome. For example, samples of seawater will be filtered and concentrated. Then the DNA of all the microbes in the water will be broken up and analyzed by powerful computers. Ventner expects to sequence the genetic structure of thousands of microbes, most of them unknown to science.

This project is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and one of its goals is to discover new bacteria that can help in the quest for cleaner emissions and renewable energy. Some bacteria might be able to scrub carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. And still other bacteria might be able to produce hydrogen to power fuel cells.

That’s this week’s Note on Emerging Science. I’m Cynthia Graber.

CURWOOD: And you’re listening to Listening on Earth.

[MUSIC: Manfred Mann “Blinded by the Light” The Best of Manfred Mann Warner Bros. (1996)]

 

 

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