The Barcode Blog

A mostly scientific blog about short DNA sequences for species identification and discovery. I encourage your commentary. -- Mark Stoeckle

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Wired, Scientific American highlight DNA-based future of species identification

In October 2008 Wired reporter Gary Wolf profiles birth and rapid growth of standardized DNA-based species identification (ie DNA barcoding). His article centers around time spent in Costa Rica with Dan Janzen, Winnie Hallwachs, and their band of parataxonomists in Area de Conservacion Guanacaste; additional legwork includes visits to worried taxonomists at University of California Berkeley (“Honestly, I never thought it would get this far,” says Kipling Will), and University of Guelph, Ontario. He concludes with an evocative analogy: “barcodes are not just devices to put names on animals; they are also clever traps to catch all the people in the world whose curiosity impels them toward data as if toward light.”

An article in October 2008 Scientific American, with Sci Am’s trademark excellent illustrations, (web version; pdf) examines hows and whys of DNA-based future of species identification (I am co-author with Paul Hebert). After discussing the many practical applications for identifying known species, we  conclude with our own analogy: “Just as the speed and economy of aerial photography caused it to supplant ground surveys as the first line of land analysis, DNA barcoding can be a rapid, relatively inexpensive first step in species discovery.”

This entry was posted on Sunday, September 21st, 2008 at 4:18 pm and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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About this site

This web site is an outgrowth of the Taxonomy, DNA, and Barcode of Life meeting held at Banbury Center, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, September 9-12, 2003. It is designed and managed by Mark Stoeckle, Perrin Meyer, and Jason Yung at the Program for the Human Environment (PHE) at The Rockefeller University.

About the Program for the Human Environment

The involvement of the Program for the Human Environment in DNA barcoding dates to Jesse Ausubel's attendance in February 2002 at a conference in Nova Scotia organized by the Canadian Center for Marine Biodiversity. At the conference, Paul Hebert presented for the first time his concept of large-scale DNA barcoding for species identification. Impressed by the potential for this technology to address difficult challenges in the Census of Marine Life, Jesse agreed with Paul on encouraging a conference to explore the contribution taxonomy and DNA could make to the Census as well as other large-scale terrestrial efforts. In his capacity as a Program Director of the Sloan Foundation, Jesse turned to the Banbury Conference Center of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, whose leader Jan Witkowski prepared a strong proposal to explore both the scientific reliability of barcoding and the processes that might bring it to broad application. Concurrently, PHE researcher Mark Stoeckle began to work with the Hebert lab on analytic studies of barcoding in birds. Our involvement in barcoding now takes 3 forms: assisting the organizational development of the Consortium for the Barcode of Life and the Barcode of Life Initiative; contributing to the scientific development of the field, especially by studies in birds, and contributing to public understanding of the science and technology of barcoding and its applications through improved visualization techniques and preparation of brochures and other broadly accessible means, including this website. While the Sloan Foundation continues to support CBOL through a grant to the Smithsonian Institution, it does not provide financial support for barcoding research itself or support to the PHE for its research in this field.