Teaming up for Genomic Conservation

With 230,000 named species in the ocean and perhaps many times that number yet to be discovered, preserving the genomic diversity of the sea is a monumental task—bigger than any one institution can manage alone! Now, Ocean Genome Legacy is leading the way toward a more collaborative and more secure approach to genome conservation called collection mirroring.

What is collection mirroring? OGL partners with many museums and collections around the world, each of which maintains many precious specimens. But what might happen to those specimens in the event of a fire, flood, or other disaster? OGL is now asking these collections to partner with OGL by storing matching or “mirrored” subsamples of selected specimens in both collections.

The partnership between Northeastern University and the Smithsonian Institution will support the study and conservation of marine species such as these diverse invertebrates. Photo credit: NMNH Department of Invertebrate Zoology.
The partnership between Northeastern University and the Smithsonian Institution will support the study and conservation of marine species such as these diverse invertebrates. Photo credit: NMNH Department of Invertebrate Zoology.

Mirroring is a win-win strategy that helps both partners expand their collections, while at the same time improving security, with each collection serving as an off-site backup for the other. Furthermore, mirroring makes it easier for researchers to find the samples they need because those samples can be found in the catalogs of both partners.

As a test bed for this new approach, OGL has launched a formal sample sharing agreement with the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History (NMNH). OGL and NMNH already share data through the Global Genome Biodiversity Network (GGBN), an international collaboration of genomic collections, and have a history of working closely together on diverse projects, from studying deep-sea corals to sequencing a whale’s genome. This new agreement will make that partnership even more effective.

This new agreement aims to bring together dedicated experts in both institutions, not just to share data and samples, but also to exchange ideas, best practices, and inspiration. With this exciting new partnership, and hopefully many more to come, OGL and NMNH have taken a historic step toward building a spirit of global cooperation for genomic biodiversity conservation.

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