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Workshop on Environmental Sample Processor

On May 22, 2014 the Center for Coastal Margin Observation & Prediction (CMOP) sponsored the “ESP User Applications & Logistics Workshop” at Oregon Health & Sciences University (OHSU).
  The workshop was intended to facilitate successful deployments of the Environmental Sample Processor (ESP) by bringing the user community together to exchange information.

The ESP is a robotic microbial sampler/analyzer designed by researchers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) for investigating aquatic microbial communities. The workshop, led by Drs. Holly Simon and Lydie Herfort (OHSU/CMOP), Steven Hallam (University of British Columbia [UBC]), and Jim Birch (MBARI), hosted 30 participants from multiple institutions, including:  OHSU, MBARI, UBC, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), University of Victoria, Southern California Coastal Water Research Project, University of South Carolina, University of Georgia (UGA), University of Southern California, University of California-Santa Cruz, Pacific Northwest National Laboratories, Cawthron Institute and Stanford University. The workshop was jointly coordinated with a session on emerging technologies and integrative data analysis approaches for microbiological studies in aquatic environments convened by workshop organizers at the Joint Aquatic Sciences Meeting taking place in Portland, OR the same week.


The goals of the workshop were to provide opportunities for networking and information exchange among members of the international ESP user community. The CMOP ESP team - consisting of Simon and Herfort, Dr. Antonio Baptista, and Charles Seaton and Michael Wilkin – was especially interested in providing a platform for the community to address a number of diverse technical and logistical challenges associated with ESP deployments. During the workshop, participants also discussed the coordination of resources and other timely issues.


ESP team members from OHSU, MBARI, NOAA, and UGA gave informative presentations peppered with lively discussion from workshop participants. The topics covered included:  deployment preparation; scripting language; contextual sensors; adaptive sampling; protocol parameters, errors and recovery; sandwich hybridization assay probes; quantitative PCR capabilities; multiple-assay deployments; ‘Omics and the ESP; GUI access; the Ocean Data Support System; industry partnerships and the “Next Generation” ESP. The CMOP ESP team (Herfort, Wilkin and Seaton) gave a coordinated presentation on deploying the ESP in the Columbia River estuary, entitled “Use of continuous, real-time observations & model simulations to achieve adaptive sampling.”


Description: Environmental Sample ProcessorFeedback from participants indicated that attendance at the workshop was very useful for members of the ESP community. Tangible outcomes from the workshop include an ESP Google Group discussion forum led by MBARI team members, and access to detailed PowerPoint presentations. The ESP discussion forum has been up and running since shortly after the workshop, and has already been invaluable for technical questions related to deployments. It is anticipated that the forum will additionally be used for a variety of purposes, including bulk reagent orders, supply sharing, resolution of hardware & software problems, and collaborative ESP proposals & projects. Finally, a proposal for a follow-up workshop at MBARI on ESP repair & maintenance was suggested for 2014-2015. This follow-up workshop will focus on diagnosing mechanical problems with the ESP that can be repaired "in-house." The ability of user community members to make minor repairs on the ESP when they occur, without having to involve the manufacturer, is expected to increase the number of successful deployments.


Written by Holly Simon.  Photos taken by Jeff Schilling.