Saturday, March 10, 2012

A Modern, Integrated, High-Throughput Biodiversity Research Workflow

This summer I will be attending the Mycological Society of America (MSA) meeting at Yale.  I will be presenting a poster there that details the overall workflow for the research I am conducting at the New York Botanical Garden. You can find the abstract online here:

A modern, high-throughput workflow for biodiversity research integrating floristics, taxonomy, phylogeny, ecology and conservation

Brendan P Hodkinson* and James C Lendemer

Abstract: The field of Systematic Biology has increasingly become fragmented in recent years, with many scientists focusing in on a small number of methods or approaches for studying biodiversity and its origins. Here we present an integrated workflow for studying the many facets of biodiversity and systematics. This workflow is currently being used to conduct a large-scale inventory of lichens in the Mid-Atlantic Coastal Plain of the United States that includes the collection and analysis of ~35,000 new specimens. Using floristic habitat sampling (FHS), specimens representing the organismal group of interest are collected from individual sites throughout the study region, and are subsequently analyzed anatomically and chemically. Specimens that cannot be identified taxonomically with anatomical/chemical analyses alone are sequenced using a multi-locus 454-based approach. Sequences from the genes of interest (in our case, mtSSU, nucLSU and nucITS) are compared with publicly-available reference sequences to determine the phylogenetic affinities of species that remain either unnamed or 'incertae sedis.' All collections are databased rapidly using modular databasing software (KE EMu). Large-scale ecological analyses are performed on database-generated taxon lists by hijacking data management software originally designed for organizing and analyzing large molecular sequence data sets. Overall results are compiled and made available on the web in the form of, e.g., checklists (for regions, sub-regions and sites), detailed taxonomic treatments, molecular sequence alignments, phylogenetic trees, and specimen-based ecological data sets. Both through these online resources and workshops/forays for the public, information is disseminated for integration into conservation and management plans to preserve biodiversity for the future.

Please contact me if you'd like more specific information on this type of work.  I'm looking forward to putting together the poster and discussing it at the conference!


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