Genetic diversity in practice

A bee pollinating a lavendel flower.

Pollinators are extremely important for all plants. One focus for the project is to map genetic variation in wild bees.genetic variation in wild bees will be mapped.

Photograph: Matton

SciLifeLab has received funding totalling SEK 7.8 million to develop infrastructure for the analysis of genetic diversity in natural populations – this grant will enable researchers to work together with the public sector and companies to generate research results with direct benefit for Swedish nature conservation and environmental monitoring.

The Swedish Research Council has recently awarded funds to a number of projects aimed at developing existing scientific infrastructure to generate data that is important to non-academic users and society in general.

Kerstin Lindblad-Toh, professor at Uppsala

University, SciLifeLab and Broad Institute.

Photo: Mikael Wallerstedt

Researchers at SciLifeLab, Uppsala University and the Swedish Museum of Natural History received funding totalling SEK 7.8 million to develop SciLifeLab’s genomics and bioinformatics platforms (NGI and NBIS) for large-scale analysis of biodiversity. This grant will support researchers who want to sequence the genomes of any species, in order to study genetic variation, environmental adaptation and population structure in nature. The project is expected to strengthen the platforms so that users from companies and the public sector can benefit from them.

“We hope that these new resources at SciLifeLab will help many researchers to ask biologically important questions about biodiversity, which is particularly important now that climate change is profoundly affecting many wild species,” said Kerstin Lindblad-Toh, professor at Uppsala University, SciLifeLab and Broad Institute, and lead applicant.

Four projects on different taxa

The project contains four different pilot projects, each focussed on different taxa that are important for Swedish nature. Each sub-project has a public or private sector partner to facilitate putting results into practice.

Leif Andersson, professor at Uppsala University, together with the Swedish Maritime Administration will study genetic variation in the European cisco fish.

“The European cisco is an important fish species both from an ecological perspective but also for its value commercially through roe production. This project means that we will have better tools to monitor stock development and ensure sustainable fishing” said Martin Karlsson at the Department of Marine Management at the Swedish Maritime Administration.

Genetic analyses of endangered fungi

Anna Rosling, associate professor at Uppsala University, together with partners including The County Administrative Board of Uppsala will focus on large-scale genetic analyses of endangered fungi.

“For the County Administrative Board in Uppsala, it feels obvious to participate in the project as we see that DNA sequencing of species contributes to additional knowledge for the benefit of nature conservation,” says Lennart Nordvarg, head of the environmental department at the County Administrative Board in Uppsala.

Pollinators are extremely important for all plants, including both wild species and those used as food. Matthew Webster, professor at Uppsala University, together with the environmental consulting company Calluna will map genetic variation in wild bees.

“In Swedish nature conservation, the use of genetic methods is still in its infancy. We look forward to working with SciLifeLab to develop and adapt methods so that in the future we can offer our customers effective environmental monitoring based on genetic methods,” says Magnus Stenmark, head of research at Calluna.

Genetic variation in lemmings

Love Dalén at NRM together with the Swedish Veterinary Institute will use whole genome sequencing to study genetic variation in lemmings. The research is expected to help prevent virus outbreaks in the lemming population.

SciLifeLab has long had well-established contacts and a strongly developed service platform with a focus on clinical research and diagnostics.

“With this grant, SciLifeLab will be able to scale up its activities in the field of environment and sustainability, so that Swedish researchers together with the public sector and private companies can access new powerful analysis tools to meet the major global challenges for conservation of nature and biodiversity”, says Kerstin Lindblad-Toh.

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