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Planning to Sequence the Earth’s Biodiversity

Jose Lopez presenting at Global Biodiversity Genoomics Conference

By multiple accounts, the inaugural Global Biodiversity Genomics Conference held in Washington, D.C. February 21-23, 2017 at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History ( was successful. A consensus was achieved at the meeting to move forward with eventually sequencing all of the eukaryotic species (numbering over 1.5 million) on the planet with a unified plan under the umbrella of an “Earth Biogenome Project” (EBP).  The parade of species spans from the lowliest worms and crinoids at the bottom of the sea to the condors that fly above mountain ranges. The Global Invertebrate Genomics Alliance (or GIGA at was founded in part by Professor Jose (Joe) Lopez, and now will be part of the EBP initiative. There were many interesting talks and sessions at the conference, which cannot all fit here, but are listed in the online program – Beiogenomics Program.

For example, Professor Lopez’s MS student Kyle Roebuck attended to present his poster describing how to estimate genome sizes from marine invertebrates using flow cytometry.   A comprehensive phylogeny created by GIGA steering committee member Keith Crandall and his George Washington University team was showcased in the above Science article, indicating the status of current genome and transcriptome sequencing projects.

Professor Mahmood Shivji and Dr. Stephen J. O’Brien from HCNSO also attended the conference, co-authoring and presenting a paper on the great white shark genome.

Overall, the conference outcome and aspirations have been documented in a Science article (dated Feb 24, 2017)- Science Magazine.  A longer article was published in the print copy the following week.

At the conference, Prof Lopez played several roles. First he was on the organizing committee for the conference, and then assisted GIGA in hosting informative dual workshops prior to the conference: Introduction to Genomic Data Analysis with Galaxy; Metagenomic Data Analysis using PathoScope and PathoStat packages. Eight graduate students focused on GIGA genome projects were awarded conference waivers from GIGA and the American Genetics Association.  Prof Lopez also coordinated an invertebrate genomics session with many colleagues participating and presenting current genomics research such as Heather Bracken Grissom (FIU), Andy Baxevanis (NIH), Steven Haddock (MBARI) and Nancy Knowlton (Smithsonian Institution).

Last, Lopez was invited to speak at the final plenary session where he emphasized that GIGA was a bottom up/grassroots community and the opening of new data portals at and, as well as GIGA’s second whitepaper by the GIGA Community of Scientists, “ Advancing Genomics through the Global Invertebrate Genomics Alliance (GIGA)”. This paper explains and refines the priorities discussed at the second 2015 GIGA workshop in Munich (see here) where over 80 students and scientists participated. The next GIGA conference is planned for 2018.