Using DNA Barcodes for
DNA barcoding is a molecular technique for characterizing species using a short DNA sequence from a standardized position in the genome. DNA barcodes can be a powerful addition to the traditional methods we use to discover new species and identify specimens. DNA barcode sequences are very short relative to the entire genome of the specimen and they can be obtained reasonably quickly and cheaply.
Efforts to effectively monitor the diversity of marine species found in the rocky intertidal zone have been hampered by the lack of an authoritative field guide of intertidal species identification for coastal British Columbia. A number of the organisms we observe appear to be novel and the DNA barcode would allow us to “name” these species. In addition, we are unable to easily identify the many cryptic juvenile specimens and egg cases found in the intertidal
zone – which serves as a nursery for many subtidal species. DNA barcoding technology would facilitate species identification and permit application beyond the initial ecotoxicological aims of this project. DNA barcode database would allow trophic level studies between subtidal and intertidal species using gut analysis. This tool would allow us to detect the increased range of southern species due to global climate change or the invasion of alien species at even the egg case or juvenile stage. Accurately measuring species diversity will help in identification of candidate marine protected areas for highly diverse regions (work we are undertaking with World Wildlife Fund). The use of barcodes for species ID in ecotoxicological studies will be long term.
We will be obtaining specimens for DNA barcoding from long term marine monitoring sites along the coast of British Columbia Canada previously established by Dr. Shannon Bard. Currently, in depth studies are being conducted at beaches along pollution gradients from pulp mills in five regions from Strait of Juan de Fuca and Georgia Strait in southern British Columbia , to Prince Rupert in northern British Columbia . Multiple samples along the geographic range will be collected of each rocky intertidal macroorganism between low tide and high tide including algae, invertebrate and vertebrate species. These will be compared to voucher specimens at the The Royal British Columbia Museum and the Canadian Museum of Nature. This is the first barcoding project attempting to look at all species across the taxonomic range within the intertidal habitat of British Columbia .
We are currently in the process of developing a feely accessible web based searchable field guide that will be downloadable for use in the field. We will use the barcode of life database (BOLD) as a template and this will fill the need for comprehensive field guide for the area. The database will allow you to generate a list of species that will be likely to be found in the region that you are surveying. This will be useful for our research, and will be useful for other organizations like the Georgia Strait Alliance (GSA), Ecological Monitoring and Assessment Network (EMAN) and the Shorekeepers. Each species in the database will have information on its geographic region, substrate, tide height and multiple pictures. For more information on DNA barcoding and how it works see the Bar Code of Life webpage.