Leveraging Digitization to Access Millions of Specimen Records and DNA Barcodes from AAFC's Biological Collections for Climate-Resilient Agriculture: April 2023 Issue
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The BioMob project transformed the accessibility and usability of over 19 million physical specimens of plants, insects, fungi, bacteria, and nematodes held by the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's biological collections through a six-year, $30 million initiative. With DNA analysis, data capture, and imaging, the project has added or updated over 3.5 million specimen records, 1.4 million new specimen images, and nearly 19,000 DNA barcodes. The initiative aimed to improve the data accessibility and usability to benefit the Canadian agriculture and agri-food sector.
Biodiversity plays a crucial role in agriculture, providing solutions for climate change adaptation and protection against future threats. Scientists have long turned to nature for answers, but where do they begin when nature's toolbox is vast and largely unexplored? The answer lies in the digitization of biological reference collections, an initiative recently undertaken by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC).
AAFC's biological reference collections hold over 19 million physical specimens of plants, insects, fungi, bacteria, and nematodes in Ottawa, Ontario. With specimens dating back centuries and identified by handwritten or typewritten labels, many of these specimens remained largely hidden and unknown. The digitization initiative known as "Biological Collections and Data Mobilization" or "BioMob" for short, aimed to digitally catalogue the specimens and make them accessible to researchers.