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Published by Communications and Public Affairs 519 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

May 07, 2007

U of G Hosts Barcode of Life Symposium

The University of Guelph will host the first Scientific Symposium of the Canadian Barcode of Life Network May 10 and 11.

The event will be held in Rozanski Hall, with additional workshops offered at the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario (BIO), the world’s first centre for high-volume DNA barcoding. The centre is located on the U of G campus and will officially open May 9.

“Since the introduction of DNA barcoding four years ago, scientists from around the globe have been capturing the excitement of rediscovering the natural world using this technique,” said Paul Hebert, a Guelph integrative biology professor and director of the BIO.

“This symposium will bring all of these scientists together for the first time in Canada to talk about their findings and advances and the potential for future discoveries.”

Hebert was the first scientist to propose that a short DNA sequence from a standard gene region found in all animals can be used to identify species. He called the system “DNA barcoding,” analogous to how retail products are tagged in supermarkets to allow quick identification of millions of items.

The technology can reduce species identification time from days to a matter of hours, with anticipated technological development further reducing the time to minutes. So far, it has led to the discovery of new and overlooked species of birds, bats, butterflies, fishes and protists, including marine algae.

“Our job is to reveal how many species there are on the planet and provide really simple tools to tell one species from another,” Hebert said.

The open symposium will include talks, workshops, presentations and poster displays on research related to barcoding. There will also be updates on advances in DNA and database technology and a tour of the BIO.

In addition, Charles Godfray, holder of the Hope Chair of Zoology (Entomology) at the University of Oxford will give a plenary lecture on “Taxonomy and the Web.” He will discuss how taxonomic science is being revolutionized by molecular techniques and by new means of organizing and disseminating information.

More information about the conference is available online. The symposium is open to all interested in registering. Media are invited to attend all sessions.

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338 or Deirdre Healey, Ext. 56982.

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