The Darwin Tree of Life Project, led by the Wellcome Sanger Institute, plans to read the genomes of all known species of animals, plants, fungi and protists in the British Isles
About the Partnership
The Earth is experiencing the "sixth great extinction", an event that threatens the biodiversity upon which human society depends. As part of global initiatives to use genomics to reveal and understand biodiversity, and thus contribute to conservation and mitigation of the effects of catastrophic change, genome sequencing the Sanger Institute has initiated its Tree of Life programme.
The Tree of Life programme at the Sanger Institute is collaborating with the Natural History Museum London, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh, The Marine Biological Association, The Earlham Institute, The University of Oxford and its Wytham Woods field station, The University of Edinburgh and Edinburgh Genomics, The University of Cambridge, EMBL-EBI and others to sequence to high qualty the genomes of all eukaryotic species in the British Isles.
Together we will collect and identify samples, extract and sequence DNA and RNA, and assemble and annotate the genomes of the aproximately 60,000 species with which we share these islands. We will make the data openly available for reuse in biological research, conservation, biotechnology and beyond.
The project is currently funded through the Sanger Institute core programme budget, and a recent major Wellcome Trust Discretionary Award to the DToL partnership. In planning for over two years, the first 30-month Phase I of Darwin project will start in earnest in November 2019.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and associated public health measures, all Institutional partners in the Darwin Tree of Life project have closed their physical doors, with staff working from home. But the Darwn Tree of Life project is still running.
While sample collections and sequencing have ceased for the moment, the project is carrying out a series of research, documentation and bioinformatic tasks to allow us to return to full activity when it is safe to do so, with improved data systems, more accurate species lists and streamlined analytic pipelines.
The list of projects we are currently working on include:
The species inventory for Britain and Ireland: working on the checklists and delivering a much improved overview of the diversity of our environment.
Defining the full list of “first” target species (aiming to identify one species and one backup species to be sequenced to generate the reference genome for each taxonomic Family).
Developing specific standard operating procedures for each of the major taxa.
Optimising the collection, handling and display of sample metadata for all of the different groups of organisms we will be collecting.
Improving our assembly algorithms and developing bioinformatic analysis pipelines for long read and long range data.
Delivering high quality assemblies for all species for which we currently have sufficient data
Releasing our first annotated genomes on Ensembl and, once these are ready, a landing page for the Darwin Tree of Life at https://projects.ensembl.org
For all of these projects we welcome and encourage both cross-partner collaboration, and also collaboration with colleagues in the wider community who would like to take part. Please contact email@example.com if you would like to be involved.
All life is linked by the common thread of DNA, modified through evolution. We use whole genome sequences to explore the patterns and processes that generate genomic and biotic diversity across the Tree of Life.
The Genome Reference Informatics Team analyses genome assemblies to reveal and correct quality issues and to identify and add variation. It forms the Sanger division of the Genome Reference Consortium and the Vertebrate Genomes Project.
Some mosquitoes are better at transmitting malaria parasites than others. Likewise, some parasites are better at infecting mosquitoes than others. Our research group uses genomics to investigate these phenomena. We have two major research themes we are working on, described in more detail below.
The Sanger Institute is developing a major programme in biological diversity genome sequencing across the tree of life. One of the driver projects for this is to play a major collaborative role in the international Vertebrate Genomes Project (VGP).
Investigates the diversity of complex organisms found in the UK through sequencing and cellular technologies. It also compares and contrasts species' genome sequences to unlock insights into evolution and conservation.
The project's primary goal is to sequence 25 novel genomes representing UK biodiversity, as part of the Wellcome Sanger Institute's wider 25th Anniversary celebrations. This project will be a pathfinder for future long-read sequencing projects to demonstrate the Institute’s capabilities and will provide reference genomes for the global scientific community.