LAHORE: The Lahore Government College University (GCU) and University of Guelph Ontario of Canada signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to establish a reference library of DNA barcodes of animals, plants and fungi to research and document biodiversity in Pakistan on Tuesday.
GCU Vice Chancellor Professor Dr Hassan Amir Shah and the University of Guelph Centre for Biodiversity Genomics (CBG) Director Dr Paul Hebert through his representative Dr Muhammad Ashfaq signed a 26-point MoU at a graceful ceremony organised by the GCU Directorate of Academic Planning and External Links (AP&EL) at the university’s Syndicate Committee Room.
Speaking on the occasion, Canada CBG research scientist Dr Muhammad Ashfaq said this project would play a crucial role in the conservation of the country’s indigenous species. He added that “we can’t conserve until we have an accurate data about the biodiversity in Pakistan”.
He also said that the Earth had already faced five major mass extinctions, and ninety per cent of species, once existed, had been extinct. However, he added that the sixth extinction was likely to be different as human intervention in nature had posed a threat to the existence of animals, birds and plants.
“If we don’t know about any of these species of animals or plants, we could not do much protect them,” he said.
Dr Ashfaq said that Europe had reference libraries which had documented and researched on more than eight million species but unfortunately none of the Muslim countries had taken any major initiative in this regard.
He also said that CBG is a global leader in the field of DNA barcoding and occupied 50,000 sq. ft. the facility at the University of Guelph. He added that its research capacity reflected the coupling of one of the Canada’s largest genomics platforms with a workforce that included world-class expertise in biodiversity science, DNA sequencing and informatics.
The research scientist said that they would provide training to GCU faculty and students in DNA barcoding which was a convenient, efficient, cheap and accurate emerging technology which had greatly accelerated the pace of species discovery. “At present, researchers all over the world are utilizing this powerful tool for investigating biodiversity, differentiating cryptic species, testing food authenticity, identifying parasites, vectors, insects and predators, monitoring of illegal trade of animals and their products and identifying forensically important insects,” he added.
GCU Zoology Department Chairman Dr Muhammad Tahir said that Pakistani waters had a rich biodiversity and DNA barcoding effectively worked in water bodies.
Speaking on the occasion, Vice-Chancellor Professor Hassan Shah laid stress on expanding research collaboration among foreign and national universities saying that that higher education had become complex and multidisciplinary, and no university in the world could progress in isolation anymore.
According to the accord, both the universities also agreed to exchange faculty, researchers and students besides initiating joint research projects to develop global partnerships in the areas of biodiversity genomics, biodiversity science, DNA sequencing and bioinformatics.
Earlier, GCU AP&EL Director Fouzia Shaheen briefed the delegation about the scope of the accord and other active research collaborations of GCU.
GCU Registrar Saboor Khan and Deans Professor Dr Islam Ullah Khan, Professor Dr Riaz Ahmed and Professor Dr Tahir Kamran were also present on the occasion.