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Busy about the tree of life: reference genomics for biodiversity

19 Mar 2021 - Mark Blaxter, Tree of Life, Wellcome Sanger Institute |15h30
Busy about the tree of life: reference genomics for biodiversity

A high quality reference genome sequence has the ability to transform evolutionary and population genetics of any species. The Darwin Tree of Life project (DToL) is a partnership between biodiversity organisations and their networks of expert collectors, sequencing partners and analysis teams across the UK. We are undertaking a decadal project to generate high-quality genomes for all the ~70,000 species in Britain and Ireland - marine, freshwater and terrestrial, and plant, fungal, animal and "protist”. Similarly the Aquatic Symbiosis Genomics project is collaborating globally to sequence the genomes of ~500 symbiotic organisms - animals, plants, fungi and protozoa that interact in photosynthetic, chemosymbiotic, parasitic and other symbioses (about 1000 genomes overall). We have built a system that takes a specimen from the field through identification, processing, sequencing, assembly and annotation to produce a reference genome in ENA annotated in Ensembl. We aim to produce chromosomally-contiguous assemblies, and to capture and release mitochondrial and symbiont genomes. We release all our data openly as they are generated. The DToL project is most advanced: see for an introduction to the project, for our raw and in process data and for representation of our data in ENA. All genomes will be published openly in Wellcome Open Research. I will present on behalf of my many colleagues our successes, including a sneak look at the first hundreds of genomes and the biology they encode.

Mark Blaxter is Head of the Tree of Life Programme at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, Cambridge, UK. He leads a programme that aims to generate and analyse reference genome sequences from many thousands of species across the tree of life, with initial focus on the eukaryotic biota of Britain and Ireland (Darwin Tree of Life Project), the genomes of symbiotic organisms (Aquatic Symbiosis Genomics project) and the international Vertebrate Genomes Project and the Earth BioGenome Project. Before joining Sanger, he was Professor of Evolutionary Genomics in the University of Edinburgh, where his research portfolio focussed on the genomics of neglected, non-model organisms - and the interpretation of those genomes in ecological and evolutionary contexts. These included, inter alia, parasitic and free living nematodes, tardigrades, snails and bivalves, butterflies, bees, flies, wading birds, algae, fungi and bacteria. He built Edinburgh Genomics, the University’s genomics and bioinformatics facility, from a one-instrument service to a major genome hub. He is a highly cited author with over 200 refereed papers. He is a fellow of the Linnaean Society of London, of the Helminthological Society of Washington, of the Royal Society for Biology and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 2014.

[Host: José Melo-Fereira, Genomics of Evolutionary Change - EVOCHANGE]

Click here to watch the webinar recording

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