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ECO-CODING: A Centre for DNA Meta-barcoding Ecology

What is DNA Barcoding?

ECO-CODING: A Centre for DNA Meta-barcoding Ecology

The ECO-CODING project, led by a team of cross-faculty BU researchers, aims to apply DNA (eDNA) meta-barcoding to two distinct projects, Urban Pollinators and River Connectivity, with the overall ambition of positively impacting ecological policy across the world.

ECO-CODING is a Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF) funded project that will bring the technology of DNA barcoding to BU, collaborating environmental organisations and local school children.

DNA (eDNA) meta-barcoding involves the use of DNA produced by living organisms, collected from the environment and matched to DNA databases telling us what species are present. eDNA can rapidly, non-invasively and cost effectively inform and influence critical issues in ecology and forensics. The project has four key elements, as detailed below.

Urban Pollinators Project: How are pollinators using urban wildflower planting strips?

The Urban Pollinators project will be in collaboration with the National Botanic Garden of Wales and Bournemouth Borough Council. The project will identify pollen species from pollinators’ bodies to uncover what plants they are using in the urban environment and in addition discover the value of urban wildflower planting.

This will inform the best planting strategies for pollinators. This project will provide guidance both locally (Bournemouth Borough Council) and nationally through the HEIF+1 funded Pollinator Exchange Hub. Led by Dr Liz Franklin and Dr Kathy Hodder from BU and Natasha de Vere from the National Botanic Garden of Wales 

The river connectivity project: How are engineering structures affecting migratory fish in the river Severn catchment?

RiverThe river connectivity project is in collaboration with the Environment Agency, Natural England and the Severn Rivers Trust. Using an eDNA collected from the water and using meta-barcoding techniques the project will assess how river engineering structures in the River Severn catchment shape its biological fish communities, with a focus on migratory fish such as salmon (threatened) and eels (critically endangered). Led by Professor Rob Britton, Dr Emilie Hardouin and Dr Demetra Andeou

Develop a hub for eDNA meta-barcoding at BU

After completing the two meta-barcoding projects will qualify BU’s expertise in this field. ECO-CODING BU will discuss the potential of advertising and providing commercial eDNA meta-barcoding services as part of BU’s consultancy services BUG (Adrian Pinder), providing a unique angle to the services BUG can deliver to its customers and increasing BU’s potential for impacting ecological policy worldwide.

Inspiring local community and engaging the public

Delivering public outreach events at BU’s Festival of Learning and at the National Botanic Garden of Wales in collaboration with the Faculty of Media and Communication. We will introduce our work at these outreach events using the concept of “The DNA Detective” and a series of interactive narratives, much like the Royal Society Christmas lectures, focusing on plant DNA such as, pollen being used link a burglar to a crime scene who brushed against a particular bush on his way out.

We will promote these events to local schools with the help of our BU Advertising students and maximising social media use to generate publicity using #DNADetective. Led by Dr Jenny Alexander and Dr Liz Franklin.

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