Symposium sees engagement as primary goal
This was one of the important outcomes of a one-day symposium on DNA barcoding, attended by some 200 scientists, students, conservationists, community and business leaders and other stakeholders from throughout Pakistan.
Participants also agreed to designate the National Institute for Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering (NIBGE), in Faisalbad as the national focal point coordinating DNA barcoding activities as part of the International Barcode of Life project (iBOL).
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The symposium - held January 30 at NIBGE and entitled "DNA barcoding: a promising tool for species identification and biodiversity digitization" - was organized by Pakistan's principal practitioner of DNA barcoding, Dr. Muhammad Ashfaq, of NIBGE Foreign Faculty, with support from iBOL, the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario (BIO) at the University of Guelph.
Dr. Ashfaq told the audience that during the last 20 months about 2,000 arthropod species have been barcoded under the NIBGE-BIO collaborative project "sequencing DNA barcodes of economically important insect species of Pakistan."
Dr. Ejaz Ahmad, Deputy Director General, WWF, Pakistan highlighted the issues and constraints in biodiversity conservation in Pakistan and reiterated the need to document the endangered species using all the available means.
Other speakers included Dr. Sohail Hameed, Director, NIBGE; and Dr. Yusuf Zafar, Director General, Agriculture & Biotechnology, Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, who emphasized the need for modern scientific tools such as DNA sequence data to resolve species identity issues.
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The symposium featured two technical sessions with various speakers delivering presentations on various aspects of DNA barcoding:
- • Dr. Sara Adamowicz, Director Collections, Biodiversity Institute of Ontario, Canada (via Skype) – The utility of DNA barcoding for biodiversity documentation, ecological research and environmental quality monitoring.
- • Dr. Alex Borisenko, Curator, Biodiversity Institute of Ontario, Canada (via Skype) – Front-end processing of natural history collection specimens to facilitate DNA barcoding.
- • Sujeevan Ratnasingham, Director Informatics iBOL/Biodiversity Institute of Ontario, Canada (via Skype) – Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD).
- • Dr. Muhammad Ashfaq, NIBGE, Faisalabad – DNA barcoding in Pakistan: progress, applications and prospects.
- • Dr. Muhammad Mukhtar, Vector Control Specialist, Directorate of Malaria Control, Islamabad – Ecology and population dynamics of dengue vectors in Pakistan.
- • Dr. Muhammad Rafique, Director, Pakistan Natural History Museum, Islamabad – Diversity, distributional patterns and importance of identification of freshwater fishes of Pakistan using DNA barcoding technique.
- • Dr. Paul De Barro, Senior Principal Research Scientist, CSIRO, Australia (via Skype) – Mitochondrial COI and the Bemisia tabaci species debate.
- • Ms. Zaib un Nisa, Graduate student, GC, University, Lahore – DNA barcoding at Lahore Botanical Garden.
- • Dr. Mahmood ul Hassan, Associate Professor, Zoology, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad – DNA barcoding, a promising technique for the conservation of genetic resource of small mammals of Pakistan.
- • Dr. Masroor E. Babar, Director, Biotechnology and Biochemistry, University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, Lahore – DNA fingerprinting and barcoding for different species and breeds of livestock in Pakistan.