The Canadian Barcode of Life Network seeks to develop an accurate, rapid, and cost-effective system for DNA-based species identification. DNA barcoding is a standardized genetic approach to cataloguing biodiversity that involves generating a comprehensive reference library of short, species-specific DNA sequences derived from expert-identified voucher specimens. The primary goal of the Network is to continue the assembly of barcode records for animals while extending the DNA barcode paradigm to other eukaryotic domains of life, with an emphasis on fungi.
The Network represents the first of its kind – an enterprise dedicated to barcoding all biodiversity within a nation’s boundaries. It involves researchers and funding support from a broad range of institutions across Canada. The Network itself is made up of nearly 50 researchers located at 18 universities across Canada and seven government scientists located in five government departments, in addition to several industrial partners. A Board of Directors governs the Network, with input from an international Science Advisory Board and from the Network’s own Research Management Team.
The research of the Canadian Barcode of Life Network is comprised of a number of themes conducted at a host of top facilities across the country. These research nodes are training highly qualified personnel. The Network will directly support the training of nearly two dozen graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. As the profiles of both DNA barcoding and the Network rise, they continue to attract the participation of other top researchers and supporting agencies.
In 2005, NSERC awarded $4.9 million in research funds to the Canadian Barcode of Life for five years. This funding supports the collection of animal and fungal barcode records, in addition to the advancement of analytical and informatics platforms which underpin the activities of the Network.
Barcoding promises a major advance in our ability to identify and discover species and to manage their economic and societal impacts. While the ultimate objective is to barcode all species, the Network’s initial target is to establish a database of DNA barcodes for economically, socially, and environmentally important organisms from the Canadian biota.
Animals – About 100,000 animal species will need to be barcoded to complete the national survey. At least 10,000 species will be barcoded within five years, focusing on invasive pests, parasites, disease vectors, and commercially important groups such as fish.
Fungi – Research on this group is proceeding with an emphasis on barcoding known pathogens within ecosystems. An initial effort is directed toward marker evaluation and methodological development.
Analysis and Informatics – Continued effort and resources are being applied to the development of advanced high-throughput laboratory protocols, databasing, and data analysis.
The Canadian Barcode of Life Network represents a beneficial partnership leveraging the knowledge, resources, and expertise of many researchers, collaborators, and sponsors from across the nation. This endeavor will contribute to raising both the quality and profile of biodiversity research in Canada. The creation of DNA-based species identification systems will contribute to the economic and environmental well-being of Canada through the enhanced capacity to manage renewable resources and ecosystems. For example, the application of DNA barcoding will significantly impact the many areas that require rapid and cost-effective species identifications, including fisheries and aquaculture, forestry, agriculture, international trade, species at risk and environmental protection legislation.