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“Canada’s Centre for Biodiversity Genomics at the University of Guelph has the genomes of more than 265 thousand named species identified with barcodes in its database,” says David Suzuki. “The cost to analyze a sample against this free public database is about $10.”

There is a systematic inventorying of the world’s biodiversity taking place, says Suzuki, and citizen science is taking advantage of it. Take, for example, children in San Diego.

In an effort to collect four thousand samples of local bug life, children in San Diego are borrowing genetic testing kits from libraries and, using the LifeScanner app, uploading their data for the city’s Barcode of Life project to identify all life on Earth. The goal is to provide insight into biodiversity and environmental health. Once the Centre for Biodiversity Genomics does the genetic sequencing, the children can see the genetic barcodes of the bugs they found and compare them to others.

Another citizen science project is focused on fish identification to address the problem of mislabelled seafood. Working with SeaChoice, of which the David Suzuki Foundation is a member, and LifeScanner, some 300 Canadians “will get testing kits, buy seafood, collect data and images and return samples in a provided envelope,” says Suzuki. "Samples will be analyzed and coded, with results posted online.

“With the help of citizen scientists, genetic testing can offer a powerful approach to righting environmental wrongs. The same approach could work in areas such as testing for antibiotics, pesticide and mercury residues and more.”

Learn more about what Citizen Science is doing here.

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