Our Mission

illuminate biodiversity

Our Mission

To illuminate biodiversity by developing globally accessible DNA-based systems to speed species discovery, probe species interactions, and establish biodiversity baselines

BIOSCAN is laying the foundation for a global biodiversity monitoring system and to explore its socio-economic implications. It will achieve its scientific goals by coupling a massive, strategic sampling campaign with technologies that have never been integrated and implemented at the scale required for planetary biosurveillance.

Its work is made possible by recent advances in DNA sequencers and by the fact that species can be discerned with a tiny fraction of their genome. Until now, our capacity to leverage this approach into advanced understanding of ecosystem properties and societal implementation has been constrained by lack of cross-disciplinarity and limited data.
BIOSCAN will break these barriers by developing cost-effective protocols that deliver biodiversity data at unprecedented speed and volume, and by applying this knowledge in diverse economic, policy, and regulatory contexts.


Inventory of Life

DNA barcoding has been aiding specimen identification for 20 years, but millions of species await analysis. Using new protocols and sequencing platforms to speed the pace of analysis and lower costs, BIOSCAN will analyze more than 10 million specimens gathered from freshwater, marine, and terrestrial ecosystems around the world.

Reference Library

Rapid and accurate species delimitation and discovery is only possible for taxa and regions with an adequately comprehensive DNA barcode reference library. BIOSCAN research both contributes to and is supported by the Barcode of Life Data System (BOLD), the world's largest online workbench and database for DNA barcode data.

Illuminate the Unknown

It is estimated that we share our planet with anywhere between 8.7 to 18.1 million species, yet only around 1.8 million of those species have been identified and described. Through the use of DNA barcoding, BIOSCAN researchers can speed the pace of discovery while also revealing cryptic species and species complexes.



More Than Just a Food Web

Ecosystem functionality depends upon far more than who eats who, as a typical food web might lead one to believe. In addition to revealing previously unknown predator-prey relationships, DNA analysis can expose parasites, commensals, mutualists, parasitoids, and other species interactions.

What is a Symbiome?

A biome is an area of the planet that is defined by the biological community that has formed as a result of the physical conditions within that area, like a desert or a tropical rainforest. An individuals's symbiome is the array of organisms (parasites, parasitoids, commensals, pathogens, prey) which it interacts with during its lifespan. The species symbiome registers these interactions for all members of a species.

Reveal Hidden Relationships

There are many unseen species interactions working together to create a functioning biological system, and the DNA analyses performed by BIOSCAN researchers can reveal these otherwise invisible connections. Advances in technology has expanded our toolkit, allowing the analysis of gut contents, environmental DNA, excrement, and more.



Establish Biodiversity Baselines

Our ability to track and predict global weather patterns is based on the wealth of data that has been collected over decades of weather surveillance, but we lack any similar knowledge foundation for biodiversity. In order to better understand, track, and predict shifts in global biodiversity, we first need to collect baseline data – a task already underway by BIOSCAN researchers.

Measure and Track Human Impact

Over 70% of our planet's land surface is now heavily impacted by human activity, and our influence on marine environments is becoming increasingly clear. Through advanced DNA technologies such as eDNA analysis and metabarcoding, BIOSCAN researchers are helping farmers, miners, and other industries better measure and regulate their impact on the environment.

Implement Global Biosurveillance

The ultimate goal of all BIOSCAN research is to lay the foundation for a comprehensive global biosurveillance system, providing real-time insight into shifts in biodiversity patterns. Effective global monitoring of biodiversity could help us to understand the shifting distributions and abundances of species, and to reduce the environmental impact of human activities.

A Global Scientific Mission

Illuminate biodiversity to save our living planet
Environmental change is driving species extinctions at an accelerating pace. If we are to curb these trajectories, we must be able to rapidly track changes in biodiversity on a planetary scale. Motivated by this urgent need, the International Barcode of Life Consortium activated BIOSCAN in June 2019. Coordinated from the Centre for Biodiversity Genomics, BIOSCAN involves researchers and organizations from over 30 nations which share the goal of establishing an Earth observation system for biodiversity.

Become a part of BIOSCAN

Join the global mission to illuminate biodiversity! BIOSCAN projects have involved participants from all walks of life, from children in schools to citizen scientists to established researchers. Contact us for more information and to be connected to BIOSCAN researchers near you.

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