UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development

The Ocean Biomolecular Observing Network (OBON) is an endorsed programme of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development.
OBON Newsletter: Issue 2 -  2022

Welcome to the second issue of the OBON Newsletter.

We hope you enjoy reading this issue, and we'd love to hear your feedback - please email Astrid with any comments.

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Call for projects
The UN Ocean Decade has just released its 4th call for actions which focuses on programmes that contribute to Ocean Decade Challenge 6 – Coastal Resilience and Ocean Decade Challenge 8 – Digital Representation of the Ocean. OBON is soliciting projects under this call and is especially interested in projects focused on the South Pacific, Indian Ocean and polar regions. We would especially welcome projects related to data frameworks and data systems as well as projects that have a capacity development component.

Please include in your submission the following details:

  • Digital strategy and implementation plan. How will the project concretely implement prevailing and emerging norms (e.g. the FAIR and CARE principles) such that their data, information and digital knowledge products will be (re)usable across all OBON partners? Note that OBON will provide coordination and assistance in federating partners around shared conventions, which all OBON partners are invited to co-develop.

  • Project development: e.g. has the project been co-designed/ co-delivered by knowledge generators and users?

  • Capacity building and retention mechanisms: e.g. does the project collaborate and engage with other groups locally and globally, does it benefit underrepresented groups such as Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, as well as indigenous and local people?

  • Equity and diversity: What concrete mechanisms will the Action deploy to promote equitable participation across capacity levels and how will this translate to greater inclusivity and diversity?

Deadlines for submission:

30 November 2022 23.59h CET: Submission of Expression of Interest for programmes that do not primarily contribute to Challenges 6 or 8.

31 January 2023 23.59h CET: Submission of full applications for all Decade programmes and projects.
Scientific Advisory Committee meetings
The Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) for OBON comprises experts in the various components of OBON (data technology, molecular observations and interpretation, capacity development, technology development). Our current SAC members are listed below.

The SAC meets monthly via Zoom, and we had our annual face-to-face meeting in September. The three day programme encompassed talks by UN Ocean Decade endorsed and pipeline OBON projects, focussing on creating dialogue and encouraging collaboration between OBON projects, as well as collaboration with other programmes, e.g. Marine Life 2030 and GOOS. The SAC also discussed the OBON data strategy, harmonization of protocols, capacity and technology development, progress on the development of a community of practice, and to create further linkages with other groups involved in eDNA and molecular techniques in marine science.

If you would like to recommend someone for inclusion to the SAC, please send suggestions to Astrid. Nominations from small island developing states and least developed countriess are particularly welcomed. Please include a 1 page CV with your nomination.
Current Scientific Advisory Committee 
UN Ocean Conference Side event
The OBON side session at the UN Ocean Conference featured presentations by UN endorsed projects as well as projects that had been proposed. One group of projects comprise locations where time series of biomolecular observations have been established and can be combined with accompanying physical, chemical and biological data to understand change in ecosystems and its context. A second group of projects focused on the OBON data platform, on methodology and recommended practices and on capacity development. The presenters and participants engaged in an extended discussion on how biomolecular research can enable broadscale science-based conservation and sustainable development. Issues that need to be addressed are harmonisation of protocols and data strategies, how to work with sensitive data, and how we can build capacity in areas where currently no well-equipped laboratories are available and resources are scarce.

If you missed the event, you can view the recording here.
Official Side Event at COP 27
OBON has partnered with the Deep Ocean Stewardship Initiative (DOSI) to host an official side event, co-sponsored by the Partnership for Observation of the Global Ocean (POGO) and the University of Southampton, at the 27th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), COP 27, which will be held in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, from 6th to 18th November 2022. The side event, “Observing and understanding climate change and biodiversity from the coast to the deep ocean” will be an opportunity for the participating global networks to discuss how developing capacity for observing and understanding marine ecosystems will support tracking, forecasting and stewardship of these ecosystems to address the intertwined threats of climate change and biodiversity loss from the coast to the deep ocean. Check the POGO website for further updates and links to live streaming.
Updates from individual projects:
The Naples Ecological Research Augmented Observatory ( builds up on the legacy of the MareChiara Long Term Ecological Research station in the Gulf of Naples, sampled since the 1980s, providing base information on plankton ecology, taxonomy and physiology. NEREA implements the omic dimension by sampling monthly DNA, RNA and other molecules to better characterize plankton over a broad range, from viruses to metazoans. Metabarcoding, Metagenomics and MetaTranscriptomics are the main data to be obtained over all size fractions, in addition to metabolomics, stable isotopes, and microturbulence.

Apart from repeated monitoring, NEREA is proposed as an approach to investigate additional sites with specific features, such as the Sarno river estuary for river-sea transition, and the deep Dohrn Canyon for deep sea organisms ( The latter will soon be equipped with a mooring station (NEREA-fixed). In addition, the NEREA approach is proposed for process studies, such as the lagrangian experiment DaVinci in collaboration with Rutgers University, supported also by AssemblePlus program, during which several drifters were followed in their path along the coast, sampling for the associated plankton community and investigating diatom host-virus interactions

NEREA is tightly linked to OBON as it has the ambition to represent a model molecular observatory to better understand our oceans and how they change in response to multiple stressors in coastal areas.

Stazione Zoologica is leading the project, in collaboration with Centro Nazionale delle Ricerche (CNR), Università Politecnica delle Marche (UNIVPM), University of Naples Federico II, Consejo Superior de Investigationes Scientificas (CSIC) of Italy and Spain.
Main contact is Raffaella Casotti
Please, visit our website for further information
NEREA is a playground for repeated sampling as well as process study. Figure shows a map of sample locations
The Pacific eDNA Coastal Observatory bottles a second year of biodiversity sampling
What can water tell us about the distribution of nearshore fish? The Pacific eDNA Coastal Observatory has been collecting seawater in bottles from Juneau, Alaska to San Diego, California, in their second year of a coast-wide sampling of environmental DNA. The network will be processing this water to ask which fish live where, focussing on seagrass habitats across this large coastal region. This is a new approach for tracking fish distributions and biodiversity across this key large marine coastline, allowing scientists to track biogeography one day like we do the weather. This marks a second year of what organizers at the Hakai Institute and McGill University hope to become a decade-long project.  Read more here.
Sampling seawater just below the surface of a seagrass bed in Quatsino Sound, British Columbia. Photo credit: Mike McDermid
Sampling seawater just below the surface of a seagrass bed in Quatsino Sound, British Columbia.
Photo credit: Mike McDermid.
Hakai Institute
Biomolecular Observing Network
The coastline of British Columbia, Canada stretches over 25,000 km, spanning marine habitats from deep fjords to the nearshore waters of thousands of coastal islands. The expansiveness of this region has limited access to the central and northern reaches of the BC coast, precluding significant research in these waters and making biodiversity surveys challenging. The Hakai Institute Biomolecular Observing Network (HI-BON) brings together a network of partners across coastal British Columbia employing genetic-based assessments to create baselines, track changes through time, and provide local-scale biodiversity data in these remote areas to support local stewardship initiatives and conservation planning in our region. HI-BON is based out of the Hakai Institute (, an independent, not-for-profit research organization in British Columbia that supports long-term ecological research across a multitude of disciplines to better understand the coastal margin of the Northeast Pacific, from icefields to oceans.
map of Hakai sampling locations
The HI-BON mission aligns with the core goals and objectives of OBON. We share the goal of building a coastal multi-omics observatory to enhance marine biodiversity observations. The taxonomic focus of HI-BON research is broad, with core initiatives quantifying the diversity of fish, invertebrates, and microbes. Biomolecular sampling began at Hakai in 2014, with monthly samples collected on the remote central coast of BC as well as weekly samples in the more accessible Salish Sea. These samples are collected alongside physical and chemical measurements to monitor marine microbial and zooplankton population dynamics from surface to depth using 16S rRNA, 18S rRNA and COI gene metabarcoding. These paired and highly-resolved bio-physical-chemical oceanographic time-series are crucial to ensuring that biodiversity can be included in regional biophysical models and for constraining factors influencing biodiversity change. To expand the geographic reach of our biomolecular surveys, the Hakai Institute established the Integrated Coastal Observatory (ICO) in 2019. This monthly eDNA sampling program, focusing predominantly on fish diversity, is carried out by a network of trained community partners across BC, including Indigenous communities, Parks Canada, and interested individuals. Samples are processed by the Hakai Genomics lab and results are made accessible to partners through a tool created by our data visualization team ( This facet of HI-BON in particular focuses on capacity building with the hopes of making eDNA-based biodiversity surveys more accessible across British Columbia. Another core component of HI-BON is our DNA barcoding program where DNA barcoding of specimens is coupled with high quality imagery to document the diversity of our system and provide a regional genetic database. To date we have submitted >7000 barcodes to the Barcode of Life Database. We additionally work with university and government partners (University of British Columbia, University of Victoria, McGill University, Fisheries and Oceans Canada) to survey BC’s coastal waters in regions beyond Hakai’s core oceanographic time-series sites, from fjords to the coastal shelf, further expanding the boundaries of our marine biodiversity mapping effort. Collectively, each of these components of HI-BON contribute to our overarching objective to map and quantify marine biodiversity across the BC Coast using biomolecular approaches, crucial for the sustainable development and/or conservation of marine habitats and resources.
HI-BON is collectively run by Colleen Kellogg ( and Matt Lemay (
Western Channel Observatory
Biological Observing Network (WCO-BON)
The Western Channel Observatory – Biomolecular Observing Network (WCO BON) will build on the successes of over a century of continuous biological observations (including 20 years of DNA sampling) by combining innovative autonomous solutions for sampling, data capture and development of predictive capability through biological digital twins. WCO BON will ensure that biomolecular observations become a core component of long-term ocean monitoring, layered onto, and integrated with, the diverse range of physicochemical and biological observations currently being conducted at the Western Channel Observatory (WCO). The observatory covers almost 1,000 km2 of coastal ocean in the Western English Channel adjacent to the city of Plymouth. Plymouth is home to three world-leading marine research organisations (Marine Biological Association, Plymouth Marine Laboratory and the University of Plymouth, combined in Marine Research Plymouth). Biomolecular observations will help map key biodiversity knowledge through temporal and spatial monitoring, with the bigger challenge of determining the biological functional capacity of this immense evolving marine genomic reservoir.
Our ambition is to have WCO BON as an exemplar of truly integrated physical, chemical and biological observations. Although the WCO BON project's initial focus will be to develop, evolve and/or adopt best practises for innovative sampling; data capture; synthesis; and model development from the WCO, a wider aim will be to expand this and integrate at the regional, national (UK-IMON), European (EMO BON) and ultimately global (OBON) level. WCO BON will also use the observing infrastructure and biomolecular knowledge generated to provide training, access and capacity building for the next generation marine scientists.

Our objectives are:
  • Develop key physical infrastructure to facilitate biomolecular observing, create a Marine Microbiome Centre of Excellence. This will be a new laboratory facility to enhance our microbiology, molecular and genomics capabilities. Proximity to the ocean with our own research vessels and mesocosm facilities will provide a focal point for researchers to conduct marine microbiome research in a dedicated facility. 
  • Ensure biomolecular observing becomes a core deliverable in UK national capability priorities. WCO BON has already been collecting biomolecular data since 1999, this is currently in the process of being analysed and will form the foundation of a new national programme with a mandate to help meet the objectives of the UN Ocean Decade with ambitious aims around eDNA monitoring of the global ocean.
  • Create a National Training Centre for Marine Biomolecular Observing. WCO BON will be a regional and national hub for marine biomolecular training. The vision is to be a career destination that scientists and postgraduate students aspire to work at to advance marine biomolecular research for the benefit of society. This will also be core to our capacity development ambitions, working with POGO to connect with low-income and developing countries to help provide expertise and to set up global regional marine biomolecular hubs.
Contact Prof Willie Wilson 
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