Advancing Environmental Genomics in the Marine Environment
The offshore oil and gas industry is critical to the Newfoundland and Labrador economy (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador 2017), yet these operations must be carried out with good environmental stewardship practices. A current barrier to growth and development is the length of time it takes for environmental assessments to take place, which frequently exceed five years—increasing both the costs and the business risks associated with new projects. Petroleum Research Newfoundland and Labrador (PRNL) connects major oil and gas companies to research trends and initiatives. PRNL has identified genomics as a key area of research with wide range potential for applications in oil and gas industry and will play a key role in providing guidance and advice to the other project participants to ensure industry needs are being met. Through support from PRNL’s member oil and gas companies, eDNAtec’s Centre for Environmental Genomics Applications opened in St. John’s, N.L., in mid-2017 and is the only research centre of its kind whose sole mandate is to advance environmental DNA analysis technologies for the use of environmental biomonitoring purposes. In partnership with Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), samples will be obtained from the Newfoundland and Labrador coastal, continental shelf, and open water regions and analyzed using both traditional biomonitoring methods and environmental DNA analyses. These comparative studies are a crucial next step towards the refinement of laboratory methods and the widespread adoption of the environmental genomics techniques by both industry and regulatory agencies.