Monday, April 11, 2016

ChallenGen at the workshop “Application of genomic tools for benthic monitoring”

by Xavier Turon

The 4-5 April 2016, the Natural History Museum of Geneva (Switzerland) hosted the workshop “Application of genomic tools for benthic monitoring of marine environment: from technology to legal and socio-economic aspects”, organised by Prof. Jan Pawlowski of the University of Geneva.

The workshop was intended as a forum for the exchange of ideas about the potential of eDNA- related techniques for assessing biodiversity and the impact of human activities on it. It was attended by environmental professionals, members of regulating bodies, and scientists. The presentations and discussion were very lively, and the overarching idea is that DNA-derived indicators may be effectively used in the field of environmental monitoring (as they are in other applied sciences). However, more development and standardization is necessary before they can be integrated with- or substitute altogether- current techniques using morphology-based indicators, which are slow, time-consuming, and reliant on a worlwide dwindling taxonomic expertise.

Xavier Turon and Owen Wangensteen contributed to the workshop with the talk “Issues in metabarcoding of marine benthos”, where they pinpointed some conflicting issues, such as the use of DNA vs RNA, the choice between 18S rDNA or COI markers, or the use of a fixed vs a variable threshold for clustering sequences into MOTUs. The talk was illustrated with results obtained in the projects CHALLENGEN and METABARPARK.

Xavier Turon and Tom Wilding, of the Scottish Association for Marine Science, at the entrance of the Natural History Museum, with a lovely pet!