Canada’s natural wealth is the envy of many nations and is supported by a strong tradition of conservation and sustainable use. An important component of this wealth is Canada’s biodiversity — the variety of genes, species and ecosystems and the ecological processes that allow them to evolve and adapt to a changing world. The richness of this biodiversity is under threat today due to climate change, habitat destruction and novel and emerging diseases. There are now more than 750 plants and animals that are considered at risk in Canada and ensuring their survival is critical to the nation’s health, well- being and prosperity today and for generations to come. Now more than ever there is an increasing need for active human intervention to prevent further loss in biodiversity.
A common thread across conservation strategies is the need for genomic tools to address knowledge gaps related to species evolution, adaption, viability and genetic diversity. A reference-quality whole genome sequence is the foundation for such genetic analysis and the subsequent development of these management tools. As whole genome sequencing has become more accessible and affordable many countries have launched their own programs to characterize biodiversity. Scientists around the world have come together to form the International Earth BioGenome Project. The Canadian BioGenome Project will lead Canada’s contribution to these efforts and will raise Canada’s profile in the field of conservation genomics.
The goals of the project are to identify species (approximately 400) that are of specific relevance to Canada where genomic information and tools will be important to generate and develop policy recommendations for the application of genomics to conservation and monitoring. Species selection will be a collaborative effort with active contribution from end users. We will ensure that prioritized species will be studied and, working with all end users, we will determine priorities for the development of innovative genomics tools to advance conservation and maintain biodiversity. Whole genomes sequencing, sequence assembly and annotation will be conducted for the chosen species. The resultant genomes will be freely available, and we will also develop a user-friendly geospatial platform to store and provide easy access to project outcomes to interested non-experts and others.
The Canadian BioGenome Project (CBP) is dedicated to advancing genomic science for the benefit of all. Rapid and open data sharing strategically supports this mission by enabling research and accelerating translation. The CBP Data Deposition Policy follows standards in genomics and the text was adopted from the Sanger Institute Data Use Policy (v2 May 2014) and requires that data is shared as widely and effectively as possible with the following considerations:
The Project aims to provide rapid access to data sets of use to the research community and will place these in publicly accessible repositories as soon as practicable.
We recognize the need for researchers to be appropriately credited for their scientific contribution and investment in data generation. It is therefore expected that all researchers follow data sharing principles and appropriately acknowledge the contribution of others.
For additional information, see CGen Data Sharing Policies and EBP Report on Sample Collection and Processing Standards.
Co-Director and Head of Bioinformatics for Canada's Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre
Director of the Arctic Institute of North America at the University of Calgary
Co-investigator, Centre for Applied Genomics, The Hospital for Sick Children
Co-investigator, McGill University
Co-investigator, University of Guelph
Co-investigator, Royal Ontario Museum
Co-investigator, Geomatics and Cartographic Research Centre, Carleton University
Co-investigator, European Bioinformatics Institute
Co-investigator, African Lion Safari, Queen's University
Canada possesses significant biodiversity, with ~80,000 plant and animal species in environments ranging from desert to the arctic. Many of these species are under threat due to rapid changes in climate and other human-led impacts on our environment.
The 2015 federal Wild Species report, which assessed ~27,500 Canadian species, identified ~6 per cent (1,659 species) as “May Be at Risk” in Canada
As of 2017-18, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada’s (COSEWIC) assessments included 771 wildlife species in various risk categories; 18 assessed as extinct.
Assessments by Indigenous Peoples in Canada also reflect systemic change— Inuit report declining abundance, health and populations in several species.