The Papua New Guinea University of Natural Resources and Environment (PNG-UNRE) is proposing the development of an online database of biodiversity resources for the country, the University specially focuses on the sustainable utilisation of the country’s natural resources.
PNG-UNRE acknowledges existing global, regional, and local online databases that record biodiversity, however it emphasises the importance of developing an online database specifically for collecting data on the country’s flora and fauna.
“Most existing datasets were collected for other purposes and the databases tell us nothing about the sample size, location, or ecology of the species being recorded. This information will be a key part of our dataset”, says the University.
Data collection will be initiated by the PNG-UNRE students. Each student will adopt one species and be responsible for measuring and collating all the information for their species. Their focus will initially be on plants and marine species.
In addition to physical and ecological information, the traditional uses of these species will also be recorded. Collecting reliable data on the traditional use of native flora and fauna is notoriously difficult in PNG. Locals are usually hesitant in sharing this information because it is considered communal property and fear its exploitation. To facilitate generational-passing of such indigenous information, each student will be responsible to collect this data of a single species from their home village.
The University is working closely with Ecological Flora of the British Isles, a leading database for plant traits describing plants present in the British Isles, to develop the country’s biodiversity database.
PNG-UNRE students will also be taught how to extract and legally patent a chemical extract for their species as part of the project. Apart from the potential significant financial rewards, the students’ ownership of the patent gives them a stake at ensuring the species is conserved. The project’s long-term sustainability will be ensured by small shares of the patents retained by the University.
PNG-UNRE is Looking for Partners
Partner for Chemical Analysis of Plant Extracts
The chemical extracts drawn from the species need to be analysed before the students can lodge their patents. PNG-UNRE is looking for an industry partner that can perform this analysis. Although the data will be open source, the industry partner will have the first opportunity to access it.
Partner for DNA Barcoding of Species
PNG-UNRE intends to have the recorded organisms’ DNA barcoded to identify it as belonging to a species. The University is therefore seeking a partner, an academic institution or a biotech company, to DNA barcode the organisms recorded.
The University currently experiences very irregular power supply and poor internet access. They, therefore, need a more reliable host for the database as well.
For further information, please contact: Professor John Michael Warren, Vice Chancellor for the Papua New Guinea University of Natural Resources and Environment, email@example.com