Biodiversity Information Standards (TDWG) 2013 Symposium Talk: Potential Refinement of the BARCODE Data Standard for Forensic Application: The Barcode of Wildlife Project

TitleBiodiversity Information Standards (TDWG) 2013 Symposium Talk: Potential Refinement of the BARCODE Data Standard for Forensic Application: The Barcode of Wildlife Project
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsSchindel, David E.
Conference NameTDWG 2013 Annual Conference
Date Published10/2013
PublisherBiodiversity Information Standards (TDWG) Conference 2013
Conference LocationFlorence, Italy
KeywordsBARCODE of Life, Barcode of Wildlife Project (BWP), Biodiversity Information Standards, CBOL, collaboration, Metrics, Sustainability
Full Text


The Consortium for the Barcode of Life (CBOL) was created in 2004 with a mission to support the development of DNA barcoding as a global standard for species identification. Most CBOL activities focused on creating a cohesive research community, raising awareness and acceptance, and promoting barcoding projects that would contribute to a global reference library of standardized barcode data. CBOL’s Database Working Group proposed a data standard in 2005 which was then adopted by GenBank, the European Nucleotide Archive, and the DNA Data Bank of Japan, the three members of the International Nucleotide Sequence Database Collaboration.  The standard includes specimen data and metadata, minimum sequence length and quality, and linkages to a voucher specimen and electropherogram trace files. Adoption by the three government-funded data archives was crucial to assuring sustainability of the data.

A Google Global Impact Award in 2012 has enabled CBOL to manage a major barcoding project directly for the first time. Poachers and traffickers of endangered species have become more sophisticated in avoiding prosecution by removing diagnostic features from plants and animals, or transporting them in forms that are difficult to identify from morphological features. The Barcode of Wildlife Project (BWP) focuses on helping law enforcement agencies identify these objects using DNA barcodes. BWP involves six partner developing countries and the generation of 50,000 high-quality BARCODE reference records from 2,000 endangered species and 8,000 closely related and look-alike species. BWP has two other tangible, measurable goals: (1) prosecution and conviction of wildlife crimes using barcode data, and (2) sustainable adoption and implementation by partner countries of barcoding as a tool for enforcing species protection laws. Partner countries are deriving other benefits such as training, technical assistance, staff support, improved internet connections, and increased visibility nationally and internationally.

The BARCODE data standard provides the global framework for data generation but each partner country has different legal standards for the admissibility of evidence in court. BWP has held workshops in each partner country to engage with data providers and users over legal standards. Participants included biodiversity researchers, prosecutors, crime investigators, forensic scientists and magistrates.  Several data elements will be added to the data standard for BWP to help meet legal standards. These data elements will create Platinum, Gold and Silver categories of BARCODE records.

BWP’s governance structure, roadmap, timeline and performance assessment have been developed with the following questions and trade-offs in mind:

  1. Who benefits? Supply-side versus demand-side motivations.
  2. Are you listening to our concerns? Global standards versus local adaptations
  3. Who is in charge? Ownership and self-direction versus central direction.
  4. What are the entry costs of compliance? Burden-sharing versus burden-shifting.
  5. How is success measured? Creation of standards versus submission of compliant data.
  6. What’s in it for us? Return on investment through changed behaviors



David E. Schindel was asked to present his talk: Potential Refinement of the BARCODE Data Standard for Forensic Application: The Barcode of Wildlife Project, as part of the opening TDWG 2013 Symposium: Empowering International eCollaboration for Sustainability.