Barcode projects around the world

The Barcode of Life Initiative, under the guidance of the University of Guelph’s Biodiversity Institute of Ontario, brings together a range of projects that all target a very short gene sequence from a standardized position in the genome as a means of establishing a global standard for assigning specimens to the correct species. Numerous studies on insects, birds, fish, algae and many other taxonomic groups are under way; many more are being planned. Some are global research campaigns involving scores of contributors. Others involve small teams tackling small taxonomic groups. Taken from the Barcode of Life Initiative website, projects include the following:

FISH-BOL: The Fish Barcode of Life campaign is collecting barcodes for the 30,000-plus species of marine, freshwater and estuarine fish of the world.

TBI: The Tephritid Barcode Initiative is a two-year demonstration project that will create a system for identifying fruit flies around the world. It will barcode at least five representatives of all tephritid fruit flies, ranging from agricultural pests to beneficial species used for biological control of other pests.

MBI: The Mosquito Barcode Initiative is another demonstration project aimed at producing a global operational system for identifying mosquitoes within two years. The MBI plans to barcode at least five specimens from 80 percent of the 3,200 known mosquito species. Disease-bearing species and their closest relatives will be the highest priority.

All-Leps: This barcoding project tackles moths and butterflies. Two of the six All-Leps campaigns are global in scope and focus on two families – the Sphingidae and Saturnidae. The other four are biotic surveys of all moths and butterflies found in North America, Australia, and Costa Rica’s Area de Conservación Guanacaste.

PolarBol: The Canadian Arctic initiative is part of an international collaboration aimed at barcoding the northern biota of Canada and other circumpolar countries. Intensive collecting and barcoding efforts to date have focused on the region around Churchill, Man.

CMarZ: The Census of Marine Zooplankton is one of 14 field projects launched by the Census of Marine Life, a global effort to inventory the marine biota. CMarZ focuses on marine zooplankton, a diverse community of approximately 6,800 species. MarZ was the first research project to produce DNA sequences in a shipboard laboratory.


He first realized that in his encounter with the myriad moths that started his quest. The first thing he did after the barcoding lab was built was buy lights for his backyard out in the countryside near Guelph. “Then I started collecting. Then, we barcoded them. And we can now tell them apart,” says Hebert. “I finally found a way to understand those moths.”      BUY THIS ISSUE!

Paul Christopher Webster is a Toronto-based writer and radio and TV documentary director. To see his latest work, please go to