The Bioliteracy Challenge invites members of the general public to support the participation of high school and undergraduate students in the International Barcode of Life (iBOL) project, a global scientific initiative to accelerate the identification and preservation of Earth’s vanishing biodiversity using DNA barcoding technology.
iBOL is now a decade-long, scientific crowdsourcing effort that aims to create a digital genetic registry of Earth’s animals, plants, fungi, and protists) using a DNA barcoding system. At the core of this system are DNA barcode records that link detailed forms of information about an organism and where it was collected with a short gene sequence or DNA barcode that distinguishes species groups in much the same way that UPC barcodes distinguish retail products. Click here to view a partial list of DNA barcode records generated by students in connection with our programming.
Over 2 million barcode records from nearly 300 thousand species are currently stored in the Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD Systems), an open-access, enterprise-scale data collection workbench, data repository, and data retrieval environment. Although these records account for only a small proportion of Earth’s multicellular life, the information they contain is already enabling scientists to discover previously unknown species, expose the illegal trade of endangered species, detect instances of seafood mislabeling and food adulteration, improve forensic science, assess environmental water quality, identify the arrival of harmful agricultural pests and disease-carrying insects, understand the complexities of food webs, explore the role of climate change on biodiversity and ecological communities, and inform management decisions that sustain our fragile ecosystems.
scientific and societal benefits of this international crowdsourcing initiative
will continue to grow as new barcode records for Earth’s remaining species accumulate
in the BOLD Systems global DNA barcode library.
As a member of the general public, you can directly support the expansion
of the global library by backing the creation of 1000 new DNA barcode records
by a national network of students working under the direction of scientists at Coastal Marine Biolabs (CMB). In doing so, you will also help students enhance their
scientific knowledge-base, develop scientific habits-of-mind, gain a deeper
appreciation for the relevance of science to their daily lives, and experience
the excitement of scientific exploration and discovery. Follow these links for recent radio and television coverage of students barcoding rare marine specimens at the CMB lab.
In addition to these interrelated goals, the project also seeks to connect science to the public by highlighting the link between DNA barcoding and its numerous applications. By taking the Bioliteracy Challenge, you assist CMB in strengthening this link, establish your own funding priorities for the development of groundbreaking scientific and technological innovations that preserve Earth’s biological heritage, and help advance a new movement to democratize scientific and educational pursuits in provocative new ways.
Up to one thousand marine specimens (fishes, crustaceans, echinoderms, and gastropods) for this project will be selected by CMB scientists based on a number of considerations that include existing representation in the BOLD Systems global DNA barcode library, technical issues relating to the ease of generating DNA barcodes in the lab, feasibility of collection, availability of specimens in museum collections, etc. Specimens and tissue samples will be collected under the direct supervision of CMB scientists (in strict accordance with wildlife protection laws), or provided by partner organizations that include museums, tissue banks, and other institutions.
barcodes for each specimen will be generated by students operating through a
well-established national network of partner schools and
colleges spanning both US coasts. The assembly of DNA barcode records for
specimens will be conducted online through the BOLD Systems Student Data Portal (BOLD-SDP), a customized
Web environment co-developed by CMB and its collaborators at the Biodiversity
Institute of Ontario (the birthplace of DNA barcoding and the International
Barcode of Life project). The vetting and publication of public barcode records
will be carried-out in the same Web environment through a streamlined,
three-tier data validation system that involves students/educators and scientific
experts. Click here to read a recent
scientific publication co-authored by CMB scientists and our partners that
describes BOLD-SDP and other resources developed to support the successful participation
of students in building the global DNA barcode library. A brief, 3-minute video introduction to
BOLD-SDP can be viewed here.
Risks and Challenges
This pioneering crowdsourcing/crowfunding project builds upon prior investments made by governmental, corporate, and private funding partners to bridge biodiversity research and science education. This support has enabled Coastal Marine Biolabs and a collaborative network of scientists, bioinformaticians, and science-media and communication experts to develop and deploy innovative tools and resources needed for students around the United States to assemble and publish high quality and scientifically vetted barcode records in BOLD Systems. We therefore anticipate no significant obstacles to the successful completion of the project goal. Prospective backers are enthusiastically encouraged to visit the links below for additional details on this exciting project.
Coastal Marine Biolabs