State of the Science Stories: Developing Instrumentation | Assemble+

State-of-the-Science Stories: Developing Instrumentation

Scientific Instrumentation

ASSEMBLE Plus is working on developing instrumentation that is used at marine research stations. Our activities are currently focused on developing a database featuring reviews on the aquarium systems and equipment being used by the ASSEMBLE Plus research institutions. We are also interested in encouraging crossover and knowledge sharing between research institutions.


What is ASSEMBLE Plus doing that is different?

Database of Instrument Reviews

Purchasing aquarium systems and equipment is a rare occurrence within an organisation, but they are vital equipment for R&D. However, here is currently no reference material available to consult when updating technology or equipment within laboratories! ASSEMBLE Plus will fill this gap by creating a database with reliable advice, based on real experience with the equipment. The database is currently at a prototype stage and the “Research Aquarium Infrastructure” on-line database was launched this summer. It features technical information about the categorised pieces of equipment, including cost, location and process.

Knowledge Sharing in Technology Developments

Innovations are often developed in isolation. ASSEMBLE Plus is encouraging individuals from research institutions to collaborate and share ideas as they develop new or adapt existing technologies. Seven “technical challenges” task forces are charged with developing improvments to, and harmonising designs of, selected categories of experimental systems: tide simulation, CO2 control, pH control, LEDs, multiplex systems, flow chambers and turbulence.

The achievements thus far are as follows:

  • Station Biologique de Roscoff (France) and the Universidade de Vigo (Spain) have collaborated over the development of a tidal simulator. Together, they have developed three prototypes and have managed to upscale to 500 litres. The prototypes include a sensor for ultrasound levels and a programmable interface, they can regulate pH, and they can allow experimental replication with a multiple tank system. The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Israel) improved the pH regulation and the implementation of in-situ PAM (pulse amplitude modulated fluorometer) analysis in their Red Sea simulator.
  • Sorbonne Université’s Oceanographic Observatory of Banyuls-sur-Mer (France) adjusted their microplate experimental system to be easier to implement and get a better fit to natural spectra.
  • The University of Gothenburg (Sweden) tested their systems for automating manipulation of carbonate chemistry.
  • Flanders Marine Institute (Belgium) saw improvements made to their ocean acidification experimental facilities (larger tanks and smaller mesocosms) and sediment micro-profiling system. CCMAR implemented ocean acidification facilities. The Marine Biological Association (UK) have improved their mesocosm facility.
  • Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn (Italy) updated their seagrass culture (light, pH).


What next?

  • In terms of the database, the focus is on adding and curating the submitted data. After all, if the database is not maintained, there will be no audience to satisfy. Data entry will continue until the end of 2019. After that, the data will be analysed to produce a technical design manual and best practice recommendations (for completion by October 2020).
  • When developing new instrumentation or identifying new applications for existing instrumentation, it opens an opportunity to patent the ideas. As understanding of the patent process is limited within the scientific community – and there is a feeling that technology transfer offices are driven by numbers of patents submitted over the best interest of the knowledge owners – it would be beneficial to host a training course for ASSEMBLE Plus partners on intellectual property and patents.  
  • The University of Helsinki will be developing a mesocosm facility, which will be active from 2020.


Potential Impact

While there are no formal plans to commercialise the database (which will be accessible to ASSEMBLE Plus and EMBRC members), there have been discussions about how the database could be exploited in a wider context. For example, it could be accessed externally via a “pay wall” or published freely and form of consultancy service could be provided based on this information. It is recognised that the intellectual property of such a platform could be complicated, unless information is provided on a voluntary and open basis.

The main output from JRA4 is the database of instrument reviews, targeting marine stations.

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