Sujeevan Ratnasingham, the bioinformatics expert behind Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD), has won this year's Ebbe Nielsen Prize from the Global Biodiversity Information Facility.
Ratnasingham, who is Informatics Director for the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario at the University of Guelph and co-lead of iBOL's BOLD Working Group (WG 3.1), is the first Canadian winner of the £30,000 prize.
Ratnasingham’s development of the BOLD system “is a major and innovative landmark in bringing genomic data on biodiversity to research and research applications for science and society,” said Leonard Krishtalka, chair of the GBIF science committee.
Established in 2001 - the same year Ratnasingham completed his undergraduate degree in computing and information science at Guelph - the prize is named for the late Ebbe Nielsen, a Danish entomologist who helped to create GBIF and is given to a promising, early-career researcher using biosystematics and biodiversity informatics in novel ways.
“The prize acknowledges the value of genetic data to biodiversity science and recognizes the important work that Sujeevan and his colleagues have been doing,” said iBOL Scientific Director Paul Hebert.
Ratnasingham, who plans to use the funding for research and partnership-building, will receive the award and speak during a GBIF symposium in Korea in October. “I was incredibly honoured," he said."It’s such a prestigious award. It’s always nice to be appreciated by one’s peers."
Ratnasingham has overseen the growth of BOLD into a system that combines barcode data with images and other information about species’ genetic and morphological traits, geographical location and taxonomy.
“The focus of my work is developing systems that allow many researchers to work together and share information on a global scale,” says Ratnasingham.
Scientists use the system to enter, share and analyze information about hundreds of different barcoding projects around the world and to contribute to a barcode library that now contains hundreds of thousands of specimen barcodes from 70,000 species. “It’s impossible to work with this volume and diversity of data without novel computing platforms,” says Ratnasingham.