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What Is CBOL?

CBOLThe Consortium for the Barcode of Life (CBOL) is an international initiative devoted to developing DNA barcoding as a global standard for the identification of biological species. Established in 2004 through support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, CBOL promotes barcoding through Working Groups, networks, workshops, conferences, outreach, and training. CBOL has 200 Member Organizations from 50 countries and operates from a Secretariat Office located in the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC.

History of DNA barcoding and CBOL:

DNA barcoding, and the many initiatives dedicated to developing it as a global tool for species identification, is a young endeavor. 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.

  • 9-12 March 2003: The first exploratory workshop, entitled "DNA and Taxonomy," was held at the Cold Spring Harbor Banbury Conference Center and sponsored primarily by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The article it produced (pdf, 159Kb) stressed the potential applications of such a technique for taxonomy and the potential benefits to society, if DNA barcoding could be proven feasible across a wide range of taxonomic groups.
  • 10-12 September 2003: A second workshop, “Taxonomy, DNA, and the Barcode of Life”, was held at the Banbury Center and was much more focused in discussion, as the resulting conference report shows (pdf, 94Kb). Participants developed a blueprint for an international Bacode of Life Project that evolved quickly into a grant proposal to the Sloan Foundation.
  • 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, with Dr. Scott Miller as the Principal Investigator.
  • 24-25 May 2004: CBOL held its inaugural meeting at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History, where several Working Groups gave specific advice on how to develop CBOL as an international Barcode Iniative, as recorded in the Meeting Report (pdf, 1176Kb).
  • September 2004: The CBOL Secretariat Office opened officially with the arrival of the CBOL Staff and the appointment of Dr. David Schindel as CBOL's Executive Secretary.
  • February 2005: CBOL held the First International Barcode Conference at the Natural History Museum in London.
  • April 2006: 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).
  • September 2007: The Second International Barcode of Life Conference was held at Academia Sinia in Taipei, Taiwan.
  • April 2008: CBOL received a third two-year grant from the Sloan Foundation for $2.25 million (see grant proposal).
  • November 2009: The Third International Barcode of Life Conference was held in Mexico City, Mexico.
  • April 2010: CBOL received a fourth two-year grant from the Sloan Foundation for $1.7 million (see grant proposal).