Monday, August 18, 2008

biodiversity researchers at scifoo

As mentioned in a previous scifoo post, I met Brad Zlotnick, Dan Janzen, and Winnie Hallwachs before even getting on the bus to head to Google. As it turns out, they are involved in a DNA-bar coding effort that is being applied to Dan and Winnie's field research in Costa Rica as part of a global effort to identify unique DNA signatures of all of the world's species. Another person involved in this effort (its big..) that I had several good conversations with was Vince Smith, a 'cybertaxonomist' at London’s Natural History Museum. These conversations about biodiversity, taxonomy, tagging, and semantic web-based knowledge representation really excited me because it felt like I might be able to make a real contribution to their efforts. Who knows, maybe biodiversity research will have an important part in the next phase of my working life - which would be great because it might mean I get additional offers to occasionally go on sample collection trips ;).

The biodiversity folks were also exciting because they are actually in the process of constructing a portable organism identification system (built to detect the DNA bar codes) that sounds like it will actually become a reality in the not-too-distant future. I've wanted one for backpacking trips for many years, but everyone always said it was impossible. Guess not :). I think the only time I wrote about this was just last year though its something I've annoyed nearly anyone I've ever taken a walk in the woods with.