Ensuring Belgian Natural History Collections for the 22nd Century: towards a joint tissue and DNA collection
AGORA-MOLCOL is a joint project of the RMCA the RBINS that was run in collaboration with JEMU between December 2012 and April 2015. Both the RMCA and RBINS hold a growing number of DNA extracts and tissue samples (like fin clips, or feathers) with or without the corresponding specimen conserved in the traditional way. Natural processes will gradually lower the “quality” of the genetic material if samples are not properly buffered against this decay, resulting in deterioration and destruction of DNA and thus making specimens unsuitable for molecular research. In order to ensure an optimal future use of these vast zoological collections, there is an urgent need for clear outlines and procedures, especially in view of the application of novel research interests and techniques within the field of molecular systematics such as DNA analyses, screening epigenetic marks (e.g. DNA methylation), next generation sequencing, etc.. Current database systems at RMCA and RBINS are heterogeneous, not-centralized, and/or ill-adapted for the specific needs related to tissue and DNA collections and molecular systematic research. The availability of a uniform database system and of a joint portal system will greatly enhance the access to the collections in both institutions. It will also allow a more efficient and complementary exploitation of both collections. For more info on the AGORA-MOLCOL project, please find a summary in english, dutch and french, and the slides of the final AGORA-MOLCOL meeting.
Standards, protocols and case tests:
- A review of recommendations for specimen collection, labelling and preservation intended for further molecular work will be published in the series ‘ABC Taxa’.
- DNA extraction protocols developed for different kinds of subsamples.
- Guidelines for importing sample spreadsheets to the general database of the natural history collection: user manuals and spreadsheet templates.
- A web-based, user-friendly portal with free access to collection catalogues in RBINS and RMCA (not yet implemented)
- Testing the application of next-generation sequencing technologies on museum material: 1) RAD-sequencing of a small fruitfly species complex; GBS to study the population structure/phylogeny of 2) the African Buffalo and 3) a fruitfly species.