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Guelph: we came, we saw, we learned

Lessons learned from Canada

A small university town near Toronto hosts one of the biggest efforts around saving the planet’s biodiversity. At the Center for Biodiversity Genomics (CBG), part of the University of Guelph, they have been barcoding species for the last 15 years if not longer. Their efforts are captured in the BOLD systems (database) and part of the international effort called international Barcode of Life (iBOL).

That’s a lot of acronyms but wait until you see the numbers. At CBG they worked through over 2 million specimens, mostly insects, in 2022 alone! Through a streamlined process of handling samples, imaging technology, building a modern natural history collection, and barcoding in factory style, more and more species information becomes available to the world. It will power the ability for DNA based biodiversity monitoring and help answer scientific research questions, for instance on evolutionary divergence or complex food web systems.

Into the kitchen

Perhaps needless to explain; we wanted to dive into their kitchen and learn as much as possible! We went with a crew ranging from collection manager, to lab technicians, product managers and software engineers, so we could soak up as much information as possible. Yet we didn’t just come to study. It was a true knowledge exchange mission. What we brought to the table ranged from knowledge on the latest DNA barcoding technique, MinION, to sensor based biodiversity monitoring and even creating secure environments for launching software. We talked about AI, data architectures, how to find the best people and our collective mission to protect our planet’s biodiversity. A full week of knowledge, coffee and laughs. And of course we also visited Niagara Falls and some even went on birding trips at 6:00 AM.

So what did we learn? Great input to optimize the ARISE processes which ranged from what cool lab equipment we also want in our ‘kitchen’ to working efficiently. More importantly we met fantastic people with lots of expertise. Someone to call on the other side of the ocean to resonate innovative ideas. Building an even stronger bond with colleagues. And this was exactly how the CBG team felt as well. We're looking forward to collaborating with them in the future!

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