Fla. Museum receives $186,000 as part of international DNA barcoding project

December 17th, 2007

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Museum of Natural History received $186,000 from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Tuesday to identify and prepare 25,000 marine specimens as part of a new international DNA barcoding project.

Florida Museum invertebrate zoology researchers will analyze specimens from about 5,000 species in the museum’s collections for barcoding, or genetic sequencing. Florida Museum Malacology Curator Gustav Paulay expects the project to eventually yield public, online databases for species identification that also will create evolutionary tree diagrams with the click of a button.

“The point of this is to make the taxonomic information as available as possible,” said Paulay, a world-renowned coral reef expert and co-principal investigator on the two-year project known as the Marine Barcode of Life. “The funds will help us sort through our batch samples – some of which are identified only to the family level – and make proper IDs to the genus and species level. Then we’ll select representative tissue samples for DNA sequencing.”

The Florida Museum’s role is part of a larger $997,000 project linking its collections with those at the Paris Museum and Australia’s Queensland Museum. Together, these institutions will photograph and prepare 85,000 specimens from 20,300 species. Dirk Steinke of the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario at the University of Guelph is leading the project, which begins in January.

“As a tool, DNA barcoding is currently gaining a lot of momentum in the marine sciences,” Paulay said. “The limiting factor for us is getting access to good materials because museums don’t always have specimens appropriate for genetic testing. But this project links the three institutions worldwide that are most suited for this work.”

Writer: DeLene Beeland
Source: Gustav Paulay, (352) 273-1948, paulay@flmnh.ufl.edu