Global biodiversity project in Guelph receives $24 million in federal funding

Heavy snow-covered Johnston Hall Clock Tower, the iconic building at the main campus of University of Guelph. Getty Images

The federal government is pouring $24 million into a worldwide biodiversity project being led by the University of Guelph.

The funding for BIOSCAN is expected to expand and continue numerous projects involving DNA barcoding that are currently underway around the globe, the school said in the announcement on Wednesday.

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“BIOSCAN will inventory multicellular species, probe their interactions and dynamics, and enable researchers to help protect natural resources, ecosystems and human health,” the U of G said.

These projects include work in Costa Rica to examine the advantages of organic pineapple farming on insects and birds. A study is also being done with researchers in Ghana to help control malaria-carrying mosquitoes.

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In Canada, researchers are working with McCain Foods to develop farming practices that promote soil biodiversity while increasing crop yield. They are also barcoding Arctic species to help monitor biodiversity in the north.

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Paul Hebert, a professor in the College of Biological Science who developed DNA barcoding technology, said COVID-19 makes clear the need for a pandemic interception system, which is important as humans encroach on natural habitats of other species that harbour pathogens that can create health risks.

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“Using the power of DNA sequencing, we can register not only the diversity of multicellular life but also the diversity of organisms associated with them,” he said.


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