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Take the Bioliteracy Challenge and back the participation of students in a landmark initiative to catalog life with DNA barcodes.
Coastal Marine Biolabs
Ventura, California
United States
1 Team Member

Project Description

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. 

The 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. 

DNA 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. 

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$50,000 USD goal
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This campaign ended on February 11, 2014
Select a Perk
  • $25USD
    Web acknowledgement

    Personalized acknowledgement of your backing on an educational website hosted by Coastal Marine Biolabs.

    1 claimed
    Estimated delivery: January 2015
  • $50USD
    Name on barcode record

    Personalized acknowledgement of your backing on an educational website hosted by Coastal Marine Biolabs. Personalized acknowledgement of your backing on one digital DNA barcode record published in the BOLD Systems Public Data Portal.

    1 claimed
    Estimated delivery: January 2015
  • $100USD
    Name on barcode records

    Personalized acknowledgement of your backing a CMB-hosted educational website. Personalized acknowledgement of your backing on two digital DNA barcode records published in the BOLD Systems Public Data Portal.

    0 claimed
    Estimated delivery: January 2015
  • $1,000USD
    Barcode print

    Acknowledgement of your backing on a project website, on ten digital DNA barcode records published in BOLD Systems, and in an online quarterly newsletter. 12” X 14” print of one of your sponsored organisms with its DNA barcode

    0 claimed
    Estimated delivery: January 2015
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