Public Release: 

Exploring mega-diverse biotas with DNA Barcodes at the 7th iBOL Conference

The 2017 International Barcode of Life Conference will focus on African biodiversity, the increasing usage of DNA barcoding for wildlife forensics and product validation, and a significant rise in studies on environmental DNA.

University of Johannesburg

Hosted for the first time on the African continent, the 7th International Barcode of Life (iBOL) Conference places special emphasis on the evolutionary origins, biogeography, and conservation of African flora and fauna.

The conference coincides with the launch of the LAB-IN-A-BOX, a portable lab that can be deployed to field sites with major applications to wildlife crime and the detection of invasive species. The launch will take place during the iBOL conference on 20 November 2017 at the LifeScanner training course.

With the existing LifeScanner application, people can actively participate in the world's largest biodiversity initiative by contributing data and specimens, and then follow the analytical progress using a mobile app. Conference plenary speaker Sujeevan Ratnasingham says of Lifescanner," incorporating citizen science with education and research can be extremely beneficial for understanding life on earth".

iBOL founder Prof Paul Hebert, from the University of Guelph, Canada, will present the keynote address for the conference. According to Hebert having an awareness of the earth's species distribution and diversity is vital for conservation of life on our planet. However, numerous species are becoming extinct before we even know what they are and what role they play in our ecosystems. DNA barcoding provides the means to map and register life on earth at a greater speed than ever before, creating an inventory of multicellular life within reach on earth.

The conference will take place at the Nombolo Mdhluli Conference Centre, Skukuza, located within the heart of African wildlife, the Kruger National Park, South Africa from 20 - 24 November 2017. The conference will be attended by 470 delegates from 73 nations.

Researchers will showcase the latest scientific achievements in DNA barcoding tackling socio-economic challenges such as agricultural pests, quarantine and invasive species, wildlife forensics, disease vectors, and marketplace surveys.

Potential measures for future strategic direction in conservation of biodiversity will also be addressed. A highlight of the conference is presentations on environmental DNA and the diverse uses of high-throughput sequencing techniques which are opening new avenues for environmental biomonitoring, managing species-at-risk and invasive species.

The iBOL 2017 Conference is hosted by the African Centre for DNA Barcoding at the University of Johannesburg (UJ), the International Barcode of Life Project and the Department of Environmental Affairs, South Africa.

"Our intention is to make this a global conference with a distinctive African flavor, using the event to highlight, support and encourage African researchers across the continent and to link them up with the global barcoding network," says Prof Michelle van der Bank, head of the Local Organizing Committee of the conference, and Director of the African Centre for DNA Barcoding, located within the UJ Department of Botany and Plant Biotechnology.

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More about the conference plenary speakers at: https://dnabarcodes2017.org/plenary-speakers/

More about the UJ African Centre for DNA Barcoding at: http://acdb.co.za/

Media invitation

The media is invited to the conference and the LAB-IN-A-BOX launch as part of LifeScanner training. Journalists need to arrange their own accommodation and transport to and from the Kruger National Park.

Conference public contact and ACDB post-grad student Ms Dorcas Lekganyane will assist journalists in referrals for accommodation, and to set up and coordinate in-person / phone / email interviews with plenary speakers or other researchers. A media room will be available. A UJ photojournalist will also be assisting, and can supply in-the-field photos at the LAB-IN-THE-BOX launch, or of plenary speakers.

About LifeScanner and LAB-IN-A-BOX

The LifeScanner (lifescanner.net) is an outcome of the International Barcode of Life (iBOL) project (ibol.org) and aims to make DNA barcoding accessible and easy to implement in the contexts of citizen science, education, invasive species detection, and combating wildlife crime. LSW combines the digital DNA library produced by iBOL and the Google Barcode of Wildlife (barcodeofwildlife.org) project with a mobile sample data collection and robust field sampling kits. More recently the LifeScanner toolkit has been extended by the inclusion of LAB-IN-A-BOX, a portable lab that can be deployed to field sites. This combination enables access to data and tools necessary for streamlined species identification.

This seminar will introduce the LifeScanner solutions and provide in-lab and in-field training for a limited set of participants with a focus on application in invasive species detection and combat of wildlife crime. Those attending the workshop should be involved with governmental/NGO programs associated with advancing work in these areas.

Invasive Species Detection

It is maintained that invasive alien species are the greatest threat to biodiversity around the globe. The introduction of invasive species can be intentional or accidental. Accidental introduction mainly occurs through travel or imports such as food grains and wood. Some invasive species can affect the structure and function of ecosystems. Thus, invasive species have become an environmental issue of concern. LifeScanner provides tools for distributing the effort of monitoring for invasive species to citizens organizations without compromising on detection quality. This workshop will provide an overview of the LifeScanner mobile application and kits that can be used by non-professionals to report potential cases of invasive species and submit specimens of verification by DNA barcode.

Combating Wildlife Crime

Lack of capacity to distinguish legal from illegal wildlife products represents a major bottleneck in the enforcement and prosecution of wildlife trafficking. The availability and use of accurate, reliable, and rapid methods to identify illicit material would greatly improve customs and border enforcement, market regulation, and the assembly of reliable forensic evidence for prosecution. Improved detection and analysis may also help identify poaching hotspots and trafficking routes, determine the geographic origin, and offer clues to assist law enforcement in improving enforcement and preventions to address this challenge. This workshop will provide training on proper sample capture and data collection as well as an overview of LAB-IN-A-BOX that could be deployed to ports and other stations where immediate detection is important.

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