Posts Tagged ‘international’

Notes from the international barcode of life conference #bol4

// December 5th, 2011 // 1 Comment » // Science Communication

Image by .jun, flickr

On Friday I went to day three of the international barcode of life conference, which happened to be in my hometown of Adelaide, actually at the home of my undergrad – The University of Adelaide – how convenient!

DNA barcoding matches a region of DNA to a species, at the moment there’s still plenty of work on building up that barcode database (called BOLD, though GenBank is also used). There are about a million and a half barcodes recorded so far and it’s streaming along.

The database is open access, and people can use it to match a barcode region from an unknown sample to a species.

So far, people have used this to check out the slice of fish in sushi, illegally collected shark fins, and plenty of other stuff.

It’s a powerful technique now in it’s ninth year and with some serious momentum behind it. There were 450-ish delegates at the conference from around the world, and Australia is a fair trek for most of them.

There’s talk that one day DNA sequencing will be so fast and cheap, you could take a sample while walking through the woods and be linked to species information on a handheld device – you would know if it was poisonous, endangered, new to science or what. Still a while away, but sci-fi in its possibilities.

This cool video gives a neat overview. It’s about a project proposal for student/citizen science in barcoding which is unfortunately currently unfunded and basically on ice at the moment. Nonetheless it’s a cute cartoons and great summary.

The region used for barcoding is called CO1 (found in mitochondira) in animals. It’s x base pairs long, and is generally very different between species, but pretty similar within one species. It’s short enough that sequencing is cheap and quick. A different region is used for fungi (called ITS, which was announced as the official fungi barcode at the conference), and plants use two regions, rbcL and matK, (found in chloroplasts).

The session I went to was on education and engagement – how to get people involved in DNA barcoding.

I love open access, power to the people, breaking down barriers stuff, and they’ve got some sweet plans. Already some projects have been successful, like the urban barcode project that gets high school students involved, and one group, who found the ingredients of tea didn’t always match what’s on the label, were even published in a journal (No less than Nature Scientific Reports! Amazing!) One group found a new species of cockroach, which is like my least favourite insect, but still a good effort.

What's in your tea? Image by massdistraction, flickr

BOLD are in the process of adding education and engagement to their online database so students can add to the database and store their results in a quarantined area. So they have a safe space to experiment with barcoding. Plus then they don’t screw it all up, right? Karen James, who moderated the session, actually pointed out that students may be less likely to make mistakes, as they are only working with a small number of samples and there’s less chance of losing track and accidental mislabeling.

Still in development, the BOLD 3.0 interface will look less intimidating than the current version, making it clearer for n00bs like me, and with links for educators at the bottom. They’re beta version is online here. Neat. I played around with BOLD before, taking a look at the barcode regions out of curiousity, and with my amateur skillz found it a bit tricky to navigate. Can’t wait to see the new one up and running so I can play with it.

If you want to read more about DNA barcoding, I recommend the iBOL website. I’ve got some more bits and pieces, but will post them separately once I’ve had a chance to flesh them out properly.

OpenLab10 – best of the blogs for 2010

// December 16th, 2010 // Comments Off on OpenLab10 – best of the blogs for 2010 // Science Communication

Last years edition of OpenLab

Quick note and heads up to check out OpenLab10, which has published a list of some of the best blogging efforts from 2010. A good bunch in anyone’s book!

From this epic list they will narrow down to a mere 53, which will be published in an anthology on actual REAL paper, like the kind you see on TV.

Me own blog is listed for two posts. Firstly, How aqua regia saved Nobel Prize medals from the Nazis, a fiction based on a true science story and lively tale of chemistry trickery (chemitrickery) and bravery. Secondly may favourite monotreme, the weird, the wonderful, the Platypus. A poisonous, egg laying mammal with ten sex chromosomes.

I would invite you (nay, beg you) to vote for me, but it’s not that kind of thing so you’re off the hook.

But if you want to read some truly amazing examples of scientific writing, check out the submissions for OpenLab10! (Bookmark me first so you can come back later. You have me on RSS, right? Just checking.)

Happy reading!

New species discovered in Papua New Guinea

// October 7th, 2010 // Comments Off on New species discovered in Papua New Guinea // Recent Research, Science Communication

Image by Piotr Naskrecki/iLCP

This katydid is one of the new species discovered in Papua New Guinea during a recent expedition by Conservation International.

Another katydid had huge spiky back legs, which it stuck in the air and jabbed at attackers. The researchers discovered it was quite painful.

Their goal was to rapidly identify new species and give an indication of the wealth of biodiversity in PNG. It gives them ammo when approaching governments and seeking help in conserving the area. Here is a video from a herpetologist (someone who studies frogs, not herpes!) about his experiences. The first bit is a little boring, but then they start sneaking up and pouncing on insects and such which is lolz to watch.






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