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Evaluation of DNA barcode libraries used in the UK and developing an action plan to fill priority gapsThere are approximately 76,000 eukaryote species recognised in the UK, and while we know some of them in great detail, the majority of these species are poorly known, and hundreds of new species are discovered each year. DNA barcoding uses a short, standardised segment of an organism’s genome for identification by comparison to a reference library; however, the UK lags behind several countries in Europe and North America in that we lack trusted, reliable and openly accessible reference sequences for key UK taxa. This report is the first step in rectifying this by engaging diverse stakeholders to facilitate collaboration and coordination; providing robust stakeholder-based and independent assessment of the current state of reference libraries available for all known UK taxa; and prioritising key taxa. A survey was developed and shared with the UK research and end user community, receiving 80 responses from a wide range of stakeholders and covering the focal taxa / assemblages and habitats; the DNA reference libraries in use, their quality assurance and perceived coverage. A formal gap analysis of the public DNA data in major DNA reference libraries highlighted that an estimated 52% of UK species have publicly available DNA data of some sort; however, coverage in gene specific reference libraries varies greatly (eg 2 – 52%), as does the associated quality assurance. Priority taxa highlighted by end users had coverage in reference libraries ranging from almost complete, in the case of known invasive non-native species, to significant coverage (71%) for taxa with conservation designations. However, these data also vary by kingdom and reference library, as does the associated quality assurance. If taking a strict requirement of DNA data provided by UK specimens and held in UK repositories, for robust QC and QA, then the proportion of UK species with public DNA data in reference libraries falls to less than 4% in the largest reference library assessed (BOLD). While standard genes for DNA-based identification have essentially been established, more work is required to establish the priority taxa required for regulatory delivery in contrast to taxa that are surveyed in a non-regulatory framework. Several barriers to the development of barcode libraries were highlighted, the most relevant being sustained large scale funding, expertise, capacity, laboratory skills and equipment, quality control and assurance, collecting logistics (eg permits and access) and communication. Significant opportunities identified include a large network of interested experts, several organisations with significant delivery capabilities, current large-scale projects and funding opportunities, emerging technologies and the economy of scale for DNA sequencing. Following a stakeholder workshop, we have outlined a concise action plan to provide reliable, open access reference sequences, linked to open access vouchers, identified by known experts, to facilitate UK academic and regulatory aims.
The Potential Science and Engineering Value of Samples Delivered to Earth by Mars Sample ReturnReturn of samples from the surface of Mars has been a goal of the international Mars science community for many years. Affirmation by NASA and ESA of the importance of Mars exploration led the agencies to establish the international MSR Objectives and Samples Team (iMOST). The purpose of the team is to re-evaluate and update the sample-related science and engineering objectives of a Mars Sample Return (MSR) campaign. The iMOST team has also undertaken to define the measurements and the types of samples that can best address the objectives. Seven objectives have been defined for MSR, traceable through two decades of previously published international priorities. The first two objectives are further divided into sub-objectives. Within the main part of the report, the importance to science and/or engineering of each objective is described, critical measurements that would address the objectives are specified, and the kinds of samples that would be most likely to carry key information are identified. These seven objectives provide a framework for demonstrating how the first set of returned martian samples would impact future martian science and exploration. They also have implications for how analogous investigations might be conducted for samples returned by future missions from other solar system bodies, especially those that may harbor biologically relevant or sensitive material, such as Ocean Worlds (Europa, Enceladus, Titan) and others.