The Centre for Biodiversity Genomics (CBG) is based at the University of Guelph where it forms the largest unit within the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario. With a full-time staff of 80, research activities at the Centre are led by five faculty and five senior scientists who collectively oversee its operating Units. While overall responsibility for management lies with the Centre’s Director, operational management of each Unit resides with its Associate Director. The Centre operates under a model where the Associate Director of each Unit works closely with one of the Centre’s faculty. Each faculty member aids in strategic planning while the Associate Director oversees its operations.
The animal collections within the CBG represent cutting-edge, publicly accessible biological resources. These collections are unique in Canada as being completely digitized. All voucher specimens have been digitally recorded, and the large majority are associated with a DNA barcode record and specimen photograph. A collection information management system makes these over 2.5M digitized specimens available for taxonomic assessment and facilitates collaboration among institutions and researchers. The Collection Unit also serves as an R&D facility focused on developing high-throughput methods of collecting, preparing, databasing, imaging, and tissue sampling animal specimens for DNA analysis. This Unit has active field collecting programs in collaboration with government and non-governmental partners in Canada.
The mission of the Genomics Unit is to advance species discovery and identification through the analysis of short, standardized gene regions known as DNA barcodes. This Unit runs a world-class facility (CCDB) for high-throughput DNA barcoding, with a capacity for analyzing one million specimens per year and an active R&D unit. Analytical services are provided in support of all stages of the DNA barcoding pipeline from molecular analysis to data management. The CCDB is the primary analytical facility for the International Barcode of Life (iBOL) Project, the largest molecular biodiversity initiative ever undertaken. Apart from analytical services, the Genomics Unit has custody of a repository of DNA extracts, which represent a genetic legacy resource that is maintained for further molecular analysis, such as for Tree of Life or genomics projects.
The CBG’s Informatics Unit leads the development of computational resources and methodologies necessary for the management and interpretation of data generated through research activities at the Centre and by its partner institutions. It is responsible for bioinformatics methodology development using a range of computational techniques (including knowledge gathering and discovery methods, phylogenetics, machine learning, high performance and grid computing, database development, and human interface design) to facilitate the analysis and linking of molecular, natural history, and taxonomic data. Two prominent contributions include the BOLD web platform, a globally recognized bioinformatics workbench and database, and the BIN framework, an algorithmic approach to unsupervised classification systems which assigns specimens to species from sequence data. The Informatics Unit is responsible for the management of all data generated at the CBG and supports ongoing research through consultation and data analysis services.
The International Development Unit is the Centre’s hub for capacity building, committed to strengthening the global user base for the CBG’s research and analytical services through operationalizing DNA barcoding research readiness in developing country institutions. It facilitates the CBG’s linkages with intergovernmental organizations and international framework agreements on biodiversity, such as the Convention on Biological Diversity, helping inform policy decisions with a view towards the adoption of DNA barcoding. In this capacity, it also maintains the compliance of the Centre’s international biomaterial transactions with current regulatory requirements, such as the Nagoya Protocol and CITES. The International Development Unit helps maintain the Centre’s international leadership in technology transfer through hosting its flagship Research Training Program in DNA barcoding. This is a comprehensive immersion experience in standard barcoding methods and operational workflows for biodiversity professionals, custom-tailored to the specifics of the participant’s needs and their institution’s analytical capacity. These activities are supported through a portfolio of international development funds.
The Education & Outreach Unit at the CBG aims to promote public understanding of the concepts, methods, and applications of DNA barcoding and engage people of all ages in biodiversity research. Programs offered by this Unit range from elementary and high school activities designed to emphasize critical thinking skills across several core curriculum subjects to online continuing education courses for university students and professionals designed to provide knowledge and skills in DNA barcoding and biodiversity science.