ocean acid­i­fi­ca­tion

Millennium Post - - Mp Around Town - OUR COR­RE­SPON­DENT

One ma­jor phe­nom­e­non that has been wit­nessed over the last few decades is the ex­plo­sion of tech­nol­ogy and tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance­ments. In or­der to re­verse and com­bat the dis­as­ters that we have in­sti­gated, ‘Ge­netic engi­neer­ing’ and its al­lied fields have been con­sid­ered in the high­est re­gard and many ef­forts have been put to en­cour­age peo­ple to use this tech­nol­ogy for the bet­ter­ment of the world.

And to do the same, many events, con­fer­ences, ideations, com­pe­ti­tion, etc. have been or­ga­nized to mo­ti­vate peo­ple. One such renowned af­fair is the IGEM, In­ter­na­tional Ge­net­i­cally En­gi­neered Ma­chine, an an­nual event and a com­pe­ti­tion on syn­thetic bi­ol­ogy and its in­ter­dis­ci­plinary fields. It is a plat­form where var­i­ous teams from all over the world show­case their projects to each other, learn from each other and also show their con­tri­bu­tion to the sci­en­tific com­mu­nity and the gen­eral so­ci­ety. This event hap­pens dur­ing the month of Oc­to­ber, in MIT, Bos­ton, USA.

A team from Vellore In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy de­cided to take up an un­der­rated global phe­nom­e­non called Ocean Acid­i­fi­ca­tion, that has been af­fect­ing the world’s oceans, and the as­so­ci­ated es­tu­ar­ies and wa­ter­ways, and is us­ing IGEM as a plat­form to come up with a way tackle this is­sue. The Team, who call them­selves IGEM VIT, is work­ing on a novel idea to tackle this ma­jor en­vi­ron­men­tal dis­as­ter, where the ph of oceans is grad­u­ally de­creas­ing and be­com­ing acidic.

The root cause of the prob­lem is the in­crease in CO2 lev­els over years, which is ab­sorbed by sea­wa­ter. Ocean Acid­i­fi­ca­tion is a ma­jor is­sue through­out the world and the ef­fects are ma­jorly felt and clearly seen in the ar­eas where there are coral reefs. The stud­ies on ocean acid­i­fi­ca­tion are have just started and full-scale con­se­quence of this phe­nom­e­non has not yet been fully un­der­stood and pre­dicted.

The team started work­ing on this is­sue af­ter re­al­iz­ing the depth of the prob­lem and the pos­si­ble side ef­fects of ocean acid­i­fi­ca­tion. The team’s ide­ol­ogy to tackle the prob­lem from the root led to the be­gin­ning of the team’s six-month jour­ney of re­search and de­vel­op­ment way to tackle this is­sue started.

The Depart­ment of Biotech­nol­ogy (DBT), Gov­ern­ment of In­dia, se­lects five best teams with the most de­serv­ing projects, across In­dia, in a com­pe­ti­tion called In­dian Bi­o­log­i­cal Engi­neer­ing Com­pe­ti­tion (IBEC), and gives a grant of ten lakhs per team for them to par­tic­i­pate in IGEM. For the very first time, a team from VIT, Vellore, bagged a place in the IBEC list of spon­sored teams and won 10 lakhs to carry for­ward their project suc­cess­fully.

The IGEM VIT team, along with their Pri­mary In­ves­ti­ga­tor, Dr R Siva Pro­fes­sor, and Head, Depart­ment of Biotech­nol­ogy VIT is work­ing on de­vel­op­ing a ge­net­i­cally en­gi­neered bac­terium that can sta­bi­lize the ph of the ocean.

The­o­ret­i­cally, when these bac­te­ria are

let into the ocean wa­ters, it can sta­bi­lize the

lo­cal ph and hence has the ca­pac­ity to nor­mal­ize the ph of the ocean when done on a large scale. The project can be used as an im­me­di­ate, ef­fi­cient, and eco­nom­i­cal way to pro­vide a holis­tic and on-site so­lu­tion to what is con­sid­ered one of the ma­jor en­vi­ron­men­tal prob­lems of the mod­ern day.

Apart from the lab­o­ra­tory work, the team has taken the ini­tia­tive to speak to

lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional ex­perts in the field and at­tended con­fer­ences to un­der­stand the prob­lem in depth. They have also taken the ini­tia­tive to spread aware­ness about this prob­lem by con­duct­ing a beach cleanup, collaborating with other teams par­tic­i­pat­ing in IGEM.

They are call­ing this project Tog­gle ph and are pre­sent­ing their idea at MIT, Bos­ton this month at the IGEM Jam­boree, hap­pen­ing in the last week of Oc­to­ber.

A team from Vellore In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy has de­cided to use IGEM – a com­pe­ti­tion on syn­thetic bi­ol­ogy and its in­ter­dis­ci­plinary field – as a plat­form to come up with a way to tackle this global phenom­ena

The team from Vellore In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy – who call them­selves IGEM VIT - along with the fac­ulty meme­bers

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