Smart Computing for Mining Forum to feature DNA barcoding expert, Paul Hebert

Smart Computing for Mining will bring together academic researchers from across the SOSCIP consortium along with small, medium and large Ontario mining companies to explore opportunities to collaborate.

The event will showcase the resources, technologies and expertise available through SOSCIP, but will provide significant opportunities for companies to describe the big data challenges that they face and for academic researchers to describe the types of solutions that they can offer.  We want to give people a chance to get to know each other and have a little fun, too. Smart Computing for Mining is taking place at the GoldCorp Mining Innovation Suite at the Lassonde Mining Building, University of Toronto on Thursday, Oct. 27 from 1-5 p.m., with a reception to follow.  Click here to register.


Paul D.N. Hebert, a professor and Canadian biologist from the University of Guelph, is presenting a case study on barcoding applications in mining.  Hebert, FRSC, is a director at the Biodiversity Institute of Canada, University of Guelph, Canada Research Chair in Molecular Biodiversity (Tier I) and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. A recognized expert in the evolution and phylogeography of aquatic invertebrates, Hebert is now best known as the inventor of DNA barcoding. Hebert discusses barcoding for mining.

Can you explain what barcoding for mining is and why it is so important? What sorts of challenges can it be used to address?

For the past decade, we have led an international research program focused on the development of a new system for biodiversity analysis, one based on the examination of sequence diversity in short, standardized gene regions or DNA barcodes. Because of their digital format, DNA barcodes allow the automation of species identifications, a revolutionary advance. High costs and low accuracy currently constrain the acquisition of biodiversity data for environmental impact assessments. DNA barcodes lead to a future in which scans of environmental DNA and DNA-enabled surveys of species composition make it possible to read biodiversity with unprecedented resolution at low cost. Because of these capabilities, DNA barcoding is transformative technology for both environmental impact assessments and for tracking the success of site remediation activities.

More specifically, how can barcoding be built into mining operations and what is the impact?

DNA barcodes represent the future of environmental impact assessments needed to properly manage and protect regional biodiversity. They can also be used to monitor species reestablishment following site remediation providing a quantitative assessment of its success.

What is the role of advanced computing and big data analytics in barcoding for mining projects?

Challenges in data analysis arise because the new sequencing platforms needed for comprehensive DNA barcode data generation produce very large volumes of data. This challenge is intensifying because these platforms are doubling their capacity to generate sequence data every nine months, and the computational power required for analysis typically grows exponentially with data volume.

What can we expect from barcoding in the future? In addition to mining, what other non-traditional sectors might benefit from the adoption of genomics tools?

The protocols and methods created through our current work have a multitude of applications. Consider a future in which monitoring systems track the arrival of invasive pests at Canada’s ports and one in which agriculturists have access to real-time analyses of the abundance of pest species. We create the protocols needed to generate a detailed ‘bio-layer’ in any setting where such information is useful.