We Gotta Catch 'em All. Can you help?
(Lees dit verhaal in het Nederlands op NatureToday) We at Arise want to build an infrastructure that recognizes all Dutch species, in all possible ways: radar, images, sounds - and DNA. The principle is easy: most species can be distinguished using only a tiny part of its genetic material, the so called barcode. The current state of technology is such that you can do this even without sampling the species: you can tell which fish live in a pond by sampling the DNA in the water, for instance. If one of the fish is endangered, knowing its DNA barcode might save the pond from being drained, so this knowledge is important for conservation as well as science.
But before you can do this, first you need to actually know the barcode, and for that you need to sample the organisms. Currently, we know the barcodes of about half the Dutch (eukaryotic) species. From the other half, a lot of the barcodes are from a sample taken somewhere on the planet, so we're not completely sure if the Dutch variety of that species will be recognized from that barcode.
Which means that that Arise doesn't just involve AI, DNA-amplification, semi-autonomous sensors, pipetting robots and cloud computing. We're also going out into the field with nets, Malaise traps, and little tubes to put our samples in. We're looking forward to it, but we can also use a bit of help.
We're looking for experts that have their own collections*, or that have enough field experience that they could make one. On October 7, we and our friends at Biodiversity Genomics Europe are organizing a special day for them (in Dutch) at Naturalis, where we explain how they can help and what we can do for them in return. If that sounds like you, you are very welcome to join!
The ARISE team
(printable poster with the program - in Dutch)
*Important! There are several laws involving collecting biological material in the Netherlands, meaning that most of the time, it requires a permit. The type of experts that we're looking for will probably have these permits. We cannot use material that is collected without the proper paperwork, and urge you to not break any nature protection laws on our - or anyone's - behalf.