Scientists from the University of Michigan and Costa Rica's Inbio Parque went on a sampling expedition aboard MV Undersea Hunter to Cocos Island, Costa Rica. The expedition focused on collecting, analyzing, and documenting cyanobacteria (blue-green bacteria/blue-green algae).
Below is a small excerpt from David Sherman's (University of Michigan) Blog.
Isla del Coco Expedition May 31 to June 10, 2013 - By University of Michigan's David Sherman
A large number of today's drugs are based on natural products that have been discovered from terrestrial and marine microbes. The University of Michigan's David Sherman is working to discover new potential drugs for infectious diseases and cancer by harnessing the tremendous capabilities of microorganisms to create complex molecules with the potential for use as new therapeutic treatments. To that end, he collects samples from a range of habitats; back in his lab in the Life Sciences Institute he then isolates and analyzes the natural chemical compounds made by microorganisms.
An experienced diver, Sherman has led expeditions to Papua New Guinea, Panama, the Caribbean and various parts of Costa Rica, collecting samples and building a chemical library at the Center for Chemical Genomics, which is housed at U-M's Life Science Institute. At the end of May, he and a team of scientists headed to Isla del Coco, a protected island off the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. This is his diary of the expedition.
May 31 to June 1 — The Crossing
Ever since watching “Jurassic Park” for the first time 20 years ago, I have wondered about the “Cocos,” where parts of the movie were filmed. A UNESCO World Heritage Site with 2,000 foot cliffs rising out of the eastern Pacific ocean, Isla del Coco's remote beauty and remarkable biodiversity beckons visitors to its waters and land.
Now, after eight years of working as a PI as well as program director of the Costa Rica international cooperative biodiversity (ICBG) group, I can stop wondering. Our group of six scientists— second-year medicinal chemistry graduate student Matt Okoneski and me from the University of Michigan and four of my colleagues from the Costa Rica National Biodiversity Institute (aka, INBio)—have completed the 36-hour crossing from Puntarenas, Costa Rica on the M/V Undersea Hunter, a 120-foot boat.
The constant drone of the engine and rolling and rocking of the boat has ended, and we sit in the calm, clear waters of Chatham Bay. Various members of our expedition sit in the galley sipping hot coffee as the sun rises over the horizon. This is the smaller of two ranger stations on the Cocos Islands.
Our project focuses on developing natural-product drug discovery and bio-energy resources from Costa Rican microbiota. This has resulted in more than 35,000 semi-fractionated extracts from marine and terrestrial microorganisms that are being screened for therapeutic potential in the LSI Center for Chemical Genomics on a regular basis. We have found exciting compounds with antibiotic, antiviral, antimalarial, anticancer and other biological activities. Our ICBG is in its second cycle of funding support through the NIH Fogarty International Center. Resources come through a consortium of federal agencies including the NIH (NIGMS, NCI), the NSF, USDA, NOAA and DOE.