Author Archives: Rob Edwards

Connecting to an anvi’o server on tatabox

We use anvi’o for all sorts of ‘omics analysis, but it is a pain to run on your laptop as you can’t watch netflix and youtube, check facebook, and post to twitter at the same time (well, you can, but why would you?).

Instead, we have the latest version of anvi’o installed on tatabox, one of the machines in our HPC environment. After you have run all the anvi-commands, very often you want to launch anvi-interactive, but tatabox is safely behind a firewall. 

We can make a two step connection to tatabox using port tunneling. Depending on how you do this, you will need three terminals open.

First, start anvi-interactive on tatabox, and keep that window open (or use screen or tmux which are much better alternatives).

Next, open a terminal on your computer, and use this command (obviously changing USERNAME to your USERNAME).

ssh -L 5555:localhost:7008 -N -p 7010

Next, open another terminal (or if you are using screen or tmux, open a new terminal emulator), and login to using your normal account (the USERNAME from above).

On edwards-data, run this command:

 ssh -L 7008:localhost:8080 -N USERNAME@tatabox

Finally, on your laptop, you should open a new browser window and paste this URL:


You should see the anvi-interactive interface appear, and you can get to work.

Virus Hunting in the Cloud Codeathon v2!

We are pleased to announce the second installment of the Virus Hunting Codeathon!

From 4-6 November, 2019, the NCBI will help run a bioinformatics codeathon in College Park, MD  hosted by the UMIACS and CBCB at the University of Maryland. We are going to put a few hundred thousand metagenomic datasets on cloud infrastructure and further identify known, taxonomically definable and novel viruses with even faster approaches!  We’re specifically looking for folks who have experience in Computational Virus Hunting or adjacent fields! If this describes you, please apply! This event is for researchers, including students and postdocs, who are already engaged in the use of bioinformatics data or in the development of pipelines for virological analyses from high-throughput experiments. The event is open to anyone selected for the codeathon and willing to travel to College Park (see below).

Working groups of five to six individuals will be formed into five to eight teams.  These teams will build pipelines to analyze large datasets within a cloud infrastructure. 


  • Fast, federated indexing
    • Big Query
  • Metadata features 
  • Genome graphs for viruses
  • Approximate taxonomic analysis
  • Domain/HMM Boundary and Taxonomic Refinement
  • Bringing together approximate taxonomy and domain models
  • Sequence data quality metrics
  • Phage-host interactions

The final list of projects will be unveiled before the codeathon starts, and will build off of previous NCBI codeathons.


After a brief organizational session, teams will spend three days addressing a challenging set of scientific problems related to a group of datasets. Participants will analyze and combine datasets in order to work on these problems. We will be writing code and solving problems.

Throughout the three days will breakout to discuss progress on each of the topics, bioinformatics best practices, coding styles, etc.


Datasets will come from public repositories, with a focus on metagenomics datasets in the sequence read archive that were been ported to cloud infrastructure, as well as derivative contigs of the above.


All pipelines and other scripts, software, and programs generated in this codeathon will be added to a public GitHub repository designed for that purpose (currently, but a new one may exist by the event).

Manuscripts describing the design and usage of the software tools constructed by each team may be submitted to an appropriate journal such as the F1000Research hackathons channel, BMC Bioinformatics, GigaScience, Genome Research or PLoS Computational Biology.  Ideally, we will present a searchable, streamlined virological index from these datasets on cloud infrastructure.

How To Apply

To apply, please complete this form (approximately 10 minutes to complete). Initial applications are due Monday, October 7th, 2019 by 3 pm ET. Participants will be selected based on the experience and motivation they provide on the form.

Prior participants and applicants are especially encouraged to apply. The first round of accepted applicants will be notified on October 8th by 11:59 pm ET, and have until October 11th at 4 pm ET to confirm their participation.  International applicants or those with particular skillsets may be accepted early. If you confirm, please make sure it is highly likely you can attend, as confirming and not attending prevents other data scientists from attending this event. Please include a monitored email address, in case there are follow-up questions.

Note: Participants will need to bring their own laptop to this program. A working knowledge of scripting (e.g., Shell, Python, R) is useful but not necessary to be successful in this event. Employment of higher level scripting or programming languages may also be useful. Applicants must be willing to commit to all three days of the event.

No financial support for travel, lodging or meals is available for this event. Also, note that the codeathon may extend into the evening hours each day. Please make any necessary arrangements to accommodate this possibility. Depending on the number of people that need accommodation, we will attempt to get a group rate at one of the local hotels. Please indicate on the registration form if you need a hotel room.

There will be no registration fee or cost associated with attending this event.

For more information, or with any questions, please contact Ben Busby ( ) with any questions.

Press about Global Phylogeography of crAssphage

Our paper on the global phylogeography of crAssphage is published in Nature Microbiology. You can read the paper at the Nature Microbiology website or on ReadCube. The paper garnered international press attention, and here we have summarized the press coverage.

Please let Rob know if you are aware of any other reports that are not included here.

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NSF Collaborators and Other Affiliations Information

For several years NSF ran a trial where they would ask for a conflicts form in excel-type format. Recently, that has been codified into the Collaborators and Other Affiliations Information form. You can find more information about that form at the NSF Website and the NSF GPG.

We developed a simple script to help complete this form for you. It does not do all the work, but it gets you a long way there, and you can do the rest a lot easier. After all, you have a lot of other things to worry about when you are writing that grant. Read more to see how to use it.

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Edwards Lab @ SRS

We had a great turnout for the 2019 Student Research Symposium as usual, with everyone in the lab either presenting their work or judging the work of others. Congratulations to Dean’s award for Science winners Holly Norman and Ashelyn Lutrick for their presentation on “Analyzing the Presence, in Humans, of crAssphage: A Highly Abundant Bacteriophage Found Around the Globe”.

Here are Jillian, Melisssa, Shane, and Rob in front of Jillian and Shane’s posters.

command line deconseq

AKA: how to remove contamination from your metagenome! We use sharks genomes, but it works with humans, corals, and other things too!

A while ago we wrote deconseq to allow you to remove contamination from your sequence libraries. We used an HTS-mapper to map the reads in your sequences to your reference genome, and then filtered the sequences after mapping.

This is trivial to do with modern sequence analysis tools, and so we provide recipes here for filtering your reads based on matches to a reference genome. Read more to find out how!

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