Taking stock: a survey of genetic resources in Australasia

Eucalyptus, Acacia, Melaleuca, Macadamia. Even if you’ve never set foot in Australia, you’ve probably heard of these plant genera. That’s because these plants are not only valuable for their inherent beauty and ecosystem services, but also as natural resources that are harvested and exported at a global scale.

Australasia has a wealth of new and emerging native crop plants. Preserving our local biodiversity depends largely on our ability to appropriately manage their genetic diversity and to build resilient populations safeguarded against a changing climate. But managing genetic diversity is no easy task – it requires the combined efforts of scientists around the world, and importantly, the data infrastructure to support their collaboration.

Environment Institute researchers, Dr Colette Blyth and Professor Andy Lowe, are teaming up with the Australasian Regional Hub of DivSeek International (a not-for-profit that promotes knowledge and benefit-sharing of plant genetic resources lead by Prof Graham King from South Cross University), and BioPlatforms Australia, to launch the Survey.

This project will produce a stocktake of crop and biodiversity genetic resources housed across Australia – from vouchered collections and tissue samples, all the way to extracted DNA and genomic data. From curators of museums to managers of seedbanks, lab groups with collections to those of you with personal ones. We want to hear from you!

The goal is to firstly understand the breadth of resources that already exist; then, to work alongside curators to build a national database of biodiversity and crop genetic resources. We are hoping that this will become a living catalogue of collectories and biobanks, that anyone from any sector will be able to tap into. It will streamline the process of scientific enquiry, and it will ensure that these valuable specimens are being utilised to their full scientific potential.

The survey is available until 27th May, 2022 and is open to everyone. Please share with your networks.

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