Friday, 24 September 2010

Building a digital library for life on Earth

Launch of International Barcode of Life Project activates world's largest biodiversity genomics initiative

Toronto's CN Tower will be spectacularly illuminated as the world's biggest DNA barcode to mark the Official Launch of the International Barcode of Life Project (iBOL). Ontario's Minister of Research and Innovation, Glen Murray, will launch iBOL at the CN Tower on Saturday, September 25. (Note: the illuminated barcode will be visible on the Tower after darkness falls, approximately 7:00 pm)

TORONTO, September 24, 2010 /Canada NewsWire/ - The largest biodiversity genomics initiative ever undertaken - an international effort to build a digital identification system for all life on Earth - will be officially activated this week. The International Barcode of Life Project (iBOL) will be launched by the Minister of Research and Innovation, Glen Murray, during an event at Toronto's CN Tower on Saturday, September 25 at 6:30 p.m.

By enabling automated, rapid and inexpensive species identifications, iBOL will transform biodiversity science and its applications throughout society. "We are witnessing alarming rates of species extinction," said iBOL Scientific Director Paul Hebert, "but efforts to reverse that trend are hampered by huge gaps in our knowledge about the distribution and diversity of life. DNA barcoding promises a future where everyone will have rapid access to the names and biological attributes of every species on Earth."

Dr. Hebert said that DNA barcodes will be a vital tool not only for conservation but also for monitoring species that have adverse impacts on human health and economic wellbeing. "We are only beginning to scratch the surface of how DNA barcoding will impact the way we live, work and play," he said.

DNA barcoding is a method for identifying species using a short DNA sequence from a standard location on the genome. The technique dramatically reduces the time and cost of species identification. Moreover, because DNA barcode libraries are in digital format, fully automated identification is now possible for a growing number of species.

Work over the past five years has produced one million barcode records representing almost 80,000 species and provided the impetus for the launch of iBOL, the large-scale genomics project that will not only massively expand the DNA barcode reference library but also develop the technologies to read it, including a table-top barcoder.

iBOL has been established as a not-for-profit corporation overseen by an international board of directors representing funding organizations. More than 25 countries are involved and major commitments have been made toward the Phase 1 (2010-2015) operating budget of $150 million. The Biodiversity Institute of Ontario at the University of Guelph will soon treble in size to both accommodate the iBOL secretariat and greatly expanded facilities for barcode analysis and data storage.

By the end of the first phase in 2015, consortium members will have entered DNA barcode records from five million specimens representing half a million species into the interactive Barcode of Life Data System (BOLD) databank, creating the launchpad for a subsequent push towards a DNA barcode reference library for all of Earth's animal, plant and fungal species.

"The International Barcode of Life is assembling a global network of taxonomists, biologists and geneticists to embark on the next great exploration of the natural world," said Dr. Christian Burks, President and CEO of the Ontario Genomics Institute and Chair of the iBOL Consortium board of directors. "It will bring about fundamental changes in the way we view Earth's biodiversity and our relationship to it."

Monday, 20 September 2010

What is Car Sharing and How Does it Work?

by Michael Graham Richard, Ottawa, Canada

An Introduction to Car Sharing

Car sharing is rapidly growing in popularity, but many people still aren't quite sure what it is, how it works, and how it compares to other methods of transportation. How expensive is it? Do you have to pay for gas? What if there's no car when I need one? What about insurance? Where do you park it when you're done? Is it really better for the environment? Does it save you money? Is it available in my area? These are all questions that we're going to answer today.

Car Sharing vs. Traditional Car Rental
The first thing you need to know is that car sharing is a type of car rental. What makes it different from traditional car rental (Hertz, Enterprise, etc) is that it is designed to be convenient for people who want to rent cars for short periods of times (a few hours) and only pay for their usage (you are billed based on how long you have a car and the distance travelled).

Another difference with traditional car rental that makes car sharing more practical for people who don't own a car is that it allows you to access a car at any hour, not just business hours. And because the cars are spread around town in reserved parkings, chances are there's one such parking close to where you live, making it easy to walk to it... read more story at

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

7 Fruit Cocktails (Potentially) Good For Your Health

by Sara Novak, Columbia, SC

Can a cocktail be good for you? In moderation, we'd like to think so. The seven drinks here are packed with vitamin-rich fruit. Plus, the easy recipes are proof you don't have to pay top dollar for great cocktails -- you can make them at home.

The key to tasty and potentially healthy cocktails is avoiding processed, sugar-packed store-bought mixes. And just like cooking farm to fork, mixing farm to fork means letting the ingredients shine. In a word, simplicity is key.

To trim down the carbon footprint, use a farmers' market as your guide to what's local, using the same flexibility as you would in your normal seasonal cooking to adjust recipes as needed to what's growing at home. While South Carolina watermelons, cucumbers, pears, and peaches are often available locally into the late summer or fall, they may not be on shelves in your neck of the woods.

Here are the 7 recipes

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

New Bee Species Discovered During Downtown Toronto Commute

by Jaymi Heimbuch, San Francisco, California

Researcher Jason Gibbs who was working on a study of sweat bees discovered a new species while commuting from downtown Toronto to York University. It is one of 19 new species he found while examining 84 species of sweat bees in Canada -- so named because they are attracted to perspiration -- which are common in North America. His study goes a long way in cataloging a variety of bee that has proven a "nightmare" to study.

Science Daily reports that despite their numbers and status as an important pollinator, sweat bees are tough to study because it is hard to pin a specimen to a certain species.

"They are a nightmare to identify to species because their physical characteristics -- their morphologies -- are so similar among species. No one has been able to identify these bees until now even though they make up so many of the bees we collect," says Gibbs. "It's important to identify these species, because if we don't know what bees we have, we can't know what bees we're losing."

... read more story at