History of CBOL

Both the Barcode Initiative and the Consortium for the Barcode of Life (CBOL) are young endeavors. The first publications by Dr. Paul Hebert (University of Guelph) that proposed DNA barcoding appeared in 2003 (especially Hebert et al., 2003 (pdf, 270Kb). The idea of being able to distinguish species and identify specimens (including incomplete, damaged or immature specimens) using a very short gene sequence immediately captured the imagination of many taxonomists, geneticists and evolutionary biologists.

The first of two exploratory workshops, both sponsored by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, was held at the Cold Spring Harbor Banbury Conference Center on March 9-12, 2003. The workshop was entitled “DNA and Taxonomy" and the article it produced (pdf, 159Kb) stressed the potential applications of such a technique for taxonomy and the potential benefits to society. It argued that if DNA barcoding could be proven feasible across a wide range of taxonomic groups, then rapid, inexpensive assignment of unidentified specimens to known species could be done by non-specialists. This would expand the impact of taxonomic research beyond the confines of academic circles, and would provide benefits to agriculture, public health, education and many other segments of society.

A second workshop, “Taxonomy, DNA, and the Barcode of Life” was held at the Banbury Center on September 10-12, 2003. As reflected in the “Banbury 2” conference report (pdf, 94Kb), the discussion was much more focused than at the previous “Banbury I” workshop. Cytochrome c oxidase subunit I was emerging as a strong candidate to be the DNA barcode region for eukaryotic animals. Participants developed a blueprint for an international Bacode of Life Project that evolved quickly into a grant proposal to the Sloan Foundation.

In April 2004, the Sloan Foundation made a 30-month $669,000 award to the Smithsonian Institution for the creation and support of a Consortium for the Barcode of Life. Dr. Scott Miller of the Smithsonian Institution is the Principal Investigator on the grant from the Sloan Foundation. CBOL held its inaugural meeting at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History on May 24-25, 2004. The May Meeting Conference Report (pdf, 1176Kb) included specific advice from several Working Groups on how to develop CBOL as an international Barcode Initiative.

The CBOL Secretariat Office opened officially in September 2004 with the arrival of the CBOL Staff. CBOL held the First International Barcode Conference at the Natural History Museum in London in February 2005.

The Sloan Foundation approved a two-year renewal $1.55 million grant to the Smithsonian Institution for continuation of support for CBOL and the Secretariat Office (see copy of proposal to Sloan Foundation, pdf, 316Kb).

The Second International Barcode of Life Conference was held at Academia Sinia in Taipei, Taiwan, in September 2007.

CBOL received a third two-year grant from the Sloan Foundation for $2.25 million in April 2008 (see grant proposal).