our visionto illuminate biodiversity
changing the way humanity understands our planet
by developing globally accessible, DNA-based systems for the discovery and identification of all multicellular life
We share this planet with millions of species. This biodiversity has tremendous intrinsic, societal, and economic benefits but it is under threat. While
We are addressing this challenge by using sequence variation in short gene regions, DNA barcodes, to discover and distinguish species.
Established in 2008, iBOL is a research alliance involving nations with the desire to transform biodiversity science by building the DNA barcode reference libraries, the sequencing facilities, the informatics platforms, the analytical protocols, and the international collaboration required to inventory and assess biodiversity.
iBOL has overseen the completion of one major program, BARCODE 500K, and a second program, BIOSCAN, is now underway. The first program barcoded 500,000 species reflecting the investment of $150 million by research organizations in 25 nations. Building on this success, BIOSCAN will extend barcode coverage to 2.5 million species by 2026. This program will stimulate activation of the Planetary Biodiversity Mission (PBM) – iBOL’s final project. PBM is a research initiative that will deliver a comprehensive understanding of multicellular life by 2045.
Learn more about our programs:
We have been grounded in science and collaboration from the very beginning. From the first DNA barcoding paper to the launch of BIOSCAN, we are tackling the challenges of species discovery and identification on a planetary scale.
January 2003 - DNA BARCODING INTRODUCED
‘Biological identifications through DNA barcodes’ published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B by Paul Hebert and colleagues introduced the concept of DNA barcoding.
March 2003 - 'DNA and Taxonomy' workshop
The first exploratory workshop was held at the Cold Spring Harbor’s Banbury Conference Center. It focused on the potential applications of DNA barcoding for taxonomy and the potential benefits to society.
September 2003 - 'Taxonomy, DNA, and the Barcode of Life' workshop
A second workshop at the Banbury Center developed a blueprint for an International Barcode of Life Project. It evolved quickly into a grant proposal to the Sloan Foundation that established the Consortium of Life.
April 2004 - Consortium for the Barcode of Life formed
The Secretariat for the Consortium for the Barcode of Life (CBOL) at the Smithsonian Institution was formed as an international initiative devoted to developing DNA barcoding as a global standard for the identification of biological species. After seven years of supporting the DNA barcoding community, CBOL ended in 2011.
February 2005 - FIRST INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE
The First International Barcode Conference was held at the Natural History Museum in London, the United Kingdom in February with 46 nations in attendance.
Fall 2005 - Global campaigns ignite
Launch of the first two global campaigns to barcode all members of key taxonomic groups (FishBOL, All Birds Barcoding Initiative)
June 2007 - "United Nations of Barcoding"
Biodiversity scientists from 25 countries traveled to the University of Guelph to discuss the feasibility of a DNA barcode reference library for all multicellular life. Efforts began to establish a committee in each country to oversee the participation of its researchers and to lead the quest for funding. The International Barcode of Life (iBOL) was established the following year.
October 2010 - Launch of Barcode 500K
After securing funding and finalizing research plans, the International Barcode of Life (iBOL) activated Barcode 500K in September 2010. To mark the launch, the DNA barcode of the Canadian beaver was flashed on the CN Tower.
December 2015 - Barcode 500K complete
In five years, the first iBOL program has barcoded 500,000 species, reflecting the investment of $150 million by research organization in 25 nations.
October 2018 - Science Committee Meeting - BIOSCAN
The Science Committee met in October 2018 to discuss plans relating to the impending launch of BIOSCAN, iBOL’s second program. It will analyze hundreds of million specimens from thousands of sites –
June 2019 - Launch of BIOSCAN
The Science Committee met on June 16, 2019 to celebrate the launch of BIOSCAN and discuss plans for its successful implementation. Estimated to cost $180 million, BIOSCAN will revolutionize our understanding of biodiversity and our capacity to manage it.
October 2020 - iBOL Board of Directors Zoom Meeting
The iBOL Board of Directors met via Zoom teleconference on October 21, 2020 to discuss the current status of the consortium, its recent strategic alliance with the Earth BioGenome Project, and its latest project, BIOSCAN. Additional consideration was given to the impact of the global changes imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and plans for the future growth of iBOL.