Monday, March 9, 2015

DNA Barcode Conference Plenary - Wolfgang Wägele

Welcome back to our series of blog posts authored by plenary speakers of the Sixth International Barcode of Life Conference.

Today's contributor is Wolfgang Wägele, Director of the Zoological Research Museum Alexander Koenig and Chair of Systematic Zoology at the University of Bonn. Wolfgang spent much of his childhood in Columbia, but received his PhD from Kiel University and his Habilitation from the University of Oldenburg. His research has focused on morphological and molecular taxonomy, systematics theory, and techniques for biodiversity monitoring with an emphasis on marine crustaceans. Wolfgang has sustained a very active involvement in field expeditions, coupling studies of biodiversity in the Antarctic and South Atlantic Oceans with work in rain forests of Ecuador and Tanzania. He leads the German Barcode of Life Network, an alliance of museum and university researchers that have made a major contribution to the iBOL project.

The AMMOD project: towards a „meteorological station for species diversity“

The documentation of diversity changes in habitats requires – in the style of conservative biologists – a team of dozens of taxonomists who repeatedly collect and identify organisms in many localities. Having such data would make it possible to extrapolate species distribution in space and time to analyze the effects of land use changes, habitat fragmentation, pesticide spraying, climate change etc. We need to know why we are losing populations, not only for a few “indicator species”, but for the total diversity of organisms. Unfortunately, taxonomists have to focus on discoveries that promote their career, and there are already too few of them to analyze samples from large-scale monitoring projects. 

In such a situation, we should learn from climate researchers: we have to build Automated Multi-sensor stations for MOnitoring species Diversity (AMMODs) that can be deployed in across the landscape like meteorological stations. One module type of the AMMOD will consist of automated sampling devices (for pollen, spores, and insects) which in combination with DNA barcode analyses will deliver continuous data on the presence of a large number of animals, plants and fungi. Other modules will be based on bioacoustics and automated image analyses. A team of specialists coordinated by the Zoological Research Museum Alexander Koenig in Bonn, Germany is currently working out first sketches for an AMMOD prototype.

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