Tag Archives: dna

The Revolutionary Headache of Ancient DNA

Ancient DNA can teach us a great deal about prehistoric life. So why is it so troublesome? (Image Credit: Flying Puffin, CC BY-SA 2.0)

When we’ve talked about type specimens on Ecology for the Masses, we‘ve spent a lot of time emphasising how important it is to preserve them. Bottom line is, if they get destroyed, there are a lot of really important biological questions that become very difficult to answer.

Thankfully, landmark leaps in technology have made it  possible to extract DNA from those specimens and store them in a public repository (e.g. the NCBI nucleotide database). So then even if a specimen is lost, the DNA would still be there and could be compared to that of other specimens to figure out if it’s the same species. Sounds like a clever and straightforward thing to do, but as always, it’s more complicated in reality.

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The Why and How of Genetic Diversity

Whilst cichlid fish might look incredibly diverse, they are actually all relatively genetically similar. So how do we define genetic diversity, and how do we conserve it? (Image Credit: Emir Kaan Okutan, Pexels Licence, Image Cropped)

Biodiversity has become an immensely popular buzzword over the last few decades. Yet the concept of genetic diversity has been less present in everyday ecological conversations. So today I want to go through why genetic diversity is important, how we define it, and why there is often controversy about its application in conservation science. Read more

Donald Hobern: Cataloguing the Planet’s DNA

I spoke with GBIF’s executive secretary and amateur lepidopterist Donald Hobern about how DNA barcoding fits into modern conservation and ecology (Image Credit: Donald Hobern, CC BY-2.0, Image Cropped)

DNA barcoding has revolutionised science. Ask anyone working in evolution or taxonomy these days what the biggest changes are the they’ve seen in their discipline, chances are it’ll be to do with gene sequencing and DNA processing. So when the International Barcode of Life (iBOL) Conference came to Trondheim last week, I jumped at the opportunity to learn more about the behind the scenes work that goes into cataloguing the DNA barcodes of life on earth.

I sat down with Donald Hobern, Executive Secretary of iBOL and former Executive Secretary of the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) and Director of the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA). Donald joined iBOL just as they launched BIOSCAN, a $180 million dollar program which aims to accelerate the cataloguing of the world’s biodiversity in DNA form. We spoke about BIOSCAN, the technology behind bringing occurrence and genetic data together, and how the work iBOL and GBIF do ties into the bigger picture of global conservation and sustainability.

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Paul Hebert: The Inventory of Life

I spoke to Professor Paul Hebert, the "grandfather of DNA barcoding", on his attempt to classify all muticellular life

Image Credit: Paul Hebert, University of Guelph, CC BY-SA 2.0, Image Cropped

Humans have always tried to categorise the world around us. From our early interpretation of the four elements to Linnaeus’ revolutionary system in the 1700s, we’ve always sought to understand better the life that we share the planet with. On my visit to the University of Guelph this year, I was able to sit down with a scientist who is attempting to classify all multi-cellular life.

Professor Paul Hebert is Scientific Director of the International Barcode of Life project, a consortium whose goal it is to document all life on our planet. I spoke with the man nicknamed the “father of DNA barcoding” about the magic that has revolutionised biodiversity science in the last 50 years, and how it’s being used today.

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