Connecting biodiversity collections in the pacific: digitatisation through DNA barcoding and informatics

Reference collections in museums, herbaria, botanical gardens, zoos and other repositories are critical infrastructure for research, education, regulation and legislation related to biodiversity.  These collections provide documentation of research results as well as long-term changes in nature.  Patterns of ecological, evolutionary and anthropogenic changes often go unseen and undocumented until samples from these collections material are analyzed and re-analysed using the latest technology.

In order to be accessible and effective, reference collections need to be digitised and their data and metadata made available to the research and education community, to policy-makers, and to the general public.  Digitisation in the most general sense is the association of an organism and its characteristics to a unique identifier that can be indexed for later searching and retrieval.  It can take several forms, ranging from digital capture of label data (date and place of collection, taxonomic identification) to digital image capture and even DNA sequencing.

As part of the 12th Pacific Science Association Inter-Congress, being held from the 08 – 12 July 2013 at the The University of the South Pacific, Laucala Campus, Suva, FIJI, a full day session is being offered which will include a half-day symposium of contributed presentations on DNA barcoding and a half-day instructional workshop on biodiversity informatics.  The DNA barcoding symposium will contribute toward development of a regional strategy for Oceania for  construction and use of standardised barcode libraries.  These libraries could serve basic research in ecology and evolution and/or applications such as the protection of endangered species and control of invasive alien species such as agricultural pests.

The biodiversity informatics workshop will showcase initiatives such as the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA), New Zealand Organisms register (NZOR), and digitization initiatives such as iDigBio and Australia’s Virtual Herbarium (AVH).  This session will explore applications and network tools appropriate for the small and scattered countries and territories of Oceania. Participants will learn the latest approaches to the digitization of natural history collections and explore how these could be applied to their collections. The session will conclude with a round-table discussion on strategic development of, and support for, biodiversity informatics in the Oceania region.

The Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) has expressed its support for this proposed workshop as a contribution to enhancing capacity in taxonomy (a goal of CBD’s Global Taxonomy Initiative, GTI) and strengthening informatics infrastructure in the Pacific region.   Academic collaborations on biodiversity facilitate achievement by CBD Parties in the region of Aichi Biodiversity Target 9 (invasive alien species) and Target 19 (Biodiversity science).

Please note that abstract submission is still open for this conference, as is registration to attend.

Posted on behalf of David E. Schindel (Consortium for the Barcode of Life, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, USA) and Beth Mantle (Australian National Insect Collection, CSIRO, Canberra, ACT, Australia)