RCN EukHiTS is a collaborative project between the University of New Hampshire and the University of California, Davis, funded by a Research Coordination Network award from the National Science Foundation.
The purpose of this grant is to develop a Research Coordination Network focused on Eukaryotic biodiversity research using High-Throughput Sequencing (RCN EukHiTS). Microscopic eukaryote species (organisms <1mm, such as nematodes, fungi, protists, etc.) are abundant and ubiquitous, yet invisible to the naked eye, in every ecosystem on earth. The biodiversity and geographic distributions for most of these species are largely unknown, and represent one of the major knowledge gaps in biology. High-throughput DNA sequencing technologies now allow for deep examination of virtually all microscopic organisms present in an environmental sample. For microbial eukaryote taxa, en masse biodiversity assessment using traditional loci (rRNA genes) can be conducted at a fraction of the time and cost required for traditional (morphological) approaches. Despite this promise, current bottlenecks include the lack of useful distributed tools for analysis and common data standards to allow global comparisons across individual studies as well as missing links between molecules and morphology. RCN EukHiTS will focus on developing community capabilities for computational approaches focused on eukaryotic taxa and the infrastructure, both cyber and human, needed for effective interpretation of large high-throughput datasets. The steering committee of RCN EukHiTS includes expertise from computational biology, functional genomics, computer science, taxonomy, ecology, database resource management, and representatives of end user communities to ensure that all aspects of the community are well-represented.
RCN EukHiTs will offer extensive scientific outreach, education and training, including a heavy focus on technology and social media tools. Key network activities will be devoted to training the next generation of scientists to take up the challenges of global biodiversity assessment; a strong focus on undergraduate opportunities (“Bioinformatics Bootcamps” and institutional research exchanges) will enable students to develop their research skill set through interdisciplinary training, and gain career insight though planned social interactions with established researchers at different career stages. Research coordination activities will include yearly catalysis meetings (held as satellite events to well-attended, interdisciplinary scientific conferences), working groups, and RCN-sponsored conference symposia. An RCN portal website (https://eukhits.wordpress.com) will disseminate RCN activities and inform the wider community of eukaryotic biodiversity research priorities and long-term goals. Similarly, web-based content, including blog posts and Twitter feeds, will serve to engage public audiences and raise awareness of new DNA sequencing technologies and the role of microbial eukaryotes in natural ecosystems.
Steering Committee Members of RCN EukHiTS:
- Holly Bik (PI), University of California, Davis
- W. Kelley Thomas (PI), University of New Hampshire
- Eyualem Abebe, Elizabeth City State University, North Carolina
- Linda Amaral Zettler, Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole
- Greg Caporaso, Northern Arizona University
- Anthony Chariton, CSIRO, Australia
- John Colbourne, University of Birmingham, UK
- Simon Creer, University of Bangor, Wales, UK
- Dawn Field, NERC Center for Ecology & Hydrology, UK
- Rob Knight, University of Colorado at Boulder
- Dorota Porazinska, University of Colorado at Boulder
- Jason Stajich, University of California, Riverside
- Alexandros Stamatakis, Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies, Germany
- Jyotsna Sharma, University of Texas San Antonio
***Creative Commons-licensed images used on the RCN website banner and printed promotional materials are attributed to Flickr users Antonio Guillén, the Goldstein Lab, and Derek Keats (please follow links to reach original images).***