In our bioinformatics lab we study metagenomics, a field of study where we attempt to identify various bacterial genomes within an environmental sample using DNA sequencing. This is unlike single genome experiments where an organism is cultured in the lab and then sequenced afterwards. Along with information about genomes in the environment, we want to get more information from the environment itself. The habitat of which these bacteria reside can give us more information, such as environmental conditions that affect how the organisms grow, die, and multiply. We can also get information about how these environmental factors differ from location to location, or how different environments can affect the same organism. We can even use this data to see if the organism itself has an effect on its environment.
With that in mind, we built underwater probes that gather data about these environments from where we are sampling. For these probes, we are focused on collecting pH, electric conductivity, dissolved oxygen content, and the oxygen redux potential of seawater environments. These devices are self-contained and made to be placed in deep water areas, in both fresh and salt water.
While devices that can measure this data already exist, they are very expensive and are more for commercial purposes.
We decided to build our own probes to make it affordable for consumers as well as make it open source so that the community can continue to improve on the design.