Professor Andrew Lowe leads new 2.5m DNA Barcoding Project

Did you know that over 400 new species were discovered in the Amazon between 2010-2013 alone? This is just the tip of the iceberg.

Professor Andrew Lowe of the Environment Institute says: “Of the estimated 10 million species that exist on our planet, only just over a million have so far been identified and described”.

Lowe will lead a 2.5 million dollar project that uses “DNA barcoding” to rapidly and accurately identify key animal and plant species. He predicts that it would take at least another 2000 years to identify Earth’s remaining species using traditional taxonomy.

“With DNA barcoding, we can vastly accelerate this rate and generate significant scientific and economic benefits.”

The national collaborative project is a partnership with scientists from Kings Park Botanic Garden, CSIRO, James Cook University and the South Australian Museum. Research infrastructure organisation Bioplatforms Australia is project managing the project and will provide access to DNA sequencing infrastructure and genomics and bioinformatics expertise. The project has support also from Fortescue Metals Group and BHP through its Bush Blitz program.

The project will provide value in 5 key areas:

  • verifying timber origins to combat illegal timber trading;
  • authenticating labelling and geographical origin of fish in the retail marketplace;
  • mapping plant biodiversity in the Pilbara to help with mine site environmental impact assessment and restoration management;
  • biodiversity discovery and impact assessment of invertebrates that inhabit underground aquifers utilised by mining and farming; and
  • generating barcodes for Australia’s orchids to enhance conservation.

“DNA barcoding has significant potential to enhance our understanding of Australian biodiversity and become an essential tool in the environmental assessment process and conservation planning,” says Professor Lowe. “By utilising a genetic rather than morphological marker system, barcoding can help combat illegal trade in endangered and valuable species through more accurate identification and tracking.”

Find out more about the exciting research coming out of The Australian Centre for Evolutionary Biology and Biodiversity and about this project published on the LeadSA.

Just for fun: check out TIME magazine’s TOP 10 new species of 2013. It will be interesting to see what 2014 has in store!

New Paper: Identification through DNA Barcoding – a powerful oppurtunity for ecologists

Professor Corey Bradshaw

A new paper titlted ‘Identification of Rays through DNA Barcoding: An Application for Ecologists‘ investiges DNA barcoding and its use as a potentially powerful ecological tool to support and confirm species identifications and to highlight species complexities. DNA Barcoding is used to investigate tropical rays as part of the ecological study.

The paper involves Environment Institute member Corey Bradshaw as well as Florencia Cerutti-Pereyra (Charles Darwin University), Mark Meekan (Australian Institute of Marine Science), Nu-Wei Wei (Charles Darwin University), Owen O’Shea (Murdoch University), Chris Austin (School of Science Monash University Sunway Campus) and has been published in PLoS ONE.

Download the paper to read about their findings

Two Super Science Fellowships for the Environment Institute.

The Environment Institute has won two of Federal Govenment’s Super Science Fellowships. The aim of these fellowships is to attract and retain outstanding early-career researchers. The fellowships have been awarded to this institute to examine environmental DNA barcoding and genomics, develop methods for rapid visual analysis of ecosystem change and improved climate change modelling approaches.

Lead by the Australian Centre for Evolutionary Biology and Biodiversity in collaboration with the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA and the Australian Centre for Visual Technologies the fellowships will examine environmental DNA barcoding and genomics in order to develop methods for rapid visual analysis of ecosystem change and imporved climate change modelling approaches.

“The fellows will develop advanced predictions of ecosystem changes based on novel genetic and image analysis methods,” says Professor Andy Lowe, Director of the Australian Centre for Evolutionary Biology and Biodiversity and Chair of Plant Conservation Biology in the University’s Environment Institute.

Congratulation to Andy Lowe,  Corey  Bradshaw,  Anton J van den Hengel, Barry W Brook and Alan Cooper for their successful application.