Tartu Ülikooli loodusmuuseum ja botaanikaaed

Collections of DNA and environmental samples

DNA- ja keskkonnaproovide kogud

The purpose of the DNA and environmental samples collection is the proper storage and management of isolated DNA, tissue and environmental samples for scientific purposes.

To learn about nature and to understand and predict global change, all life sciences collect samples systematically and consistently. To ensure that the DNA, tissue and environmental samples collected are preserved and easily accessible to stakeholders in a machine-readable form, they need to be properly stored and managed.

Metagenomics is a rapidly evolving field of science in which genetic material is extracted directly from an environmental sample. Such taxonomic identification is applied at the level of different ecosystems – individual organisms, their components, or whole assemblages, i.e. environmental samples of any kind of wildlife. The exponential growth and fragmentation of material necessitates its organisation.

Sergei Põlme, Zoosystematic Senior Specialist

Many steps have been taken worldwide to collect and preserve genetic material. A good example is the Global Genome Biodiversity Network (GGBN), which aims to bring together different agencies to preserve DNA samples collected and/or extracted from the wild and to provide a data management platform for sample data. The data held in the GGBN is freely accessible to researchers and all other interested parties. In Estonia, the University of Tartu Natural History Museum and Botanical Garden is a member of the GGBN, providing a physical collection of DNA and environmental samples and a digital infrastructure for the long-term storage and management of environmental samples from Estonian research institutions through the PlutoF data management system.

By the end of 2022, the University of Tartu Natural History Museum and Botanical Garden collection includes more than 30 000 DNA samples, more than five thousand environmental samples and more than one thousand tissue samples. Most of the material has already been published in scientific journals, but much of the value of the collections is yet to be realised. The Natural History Museum and the Botanical Garden also hold a large number of fungal, plant and animal collections, some of which are informative at DNA level. As research methods improve, more precise ways of learning about nature from material collected in the past will open up in the future. However, the loss of biodiversity makes it necessary to collect and preserve existing genetic material now. It is this forward-looking approach that necessitates the proper and organised preservation of material.

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Loodusfestival toimub 7.–11. juunini.

The University of Tartu Botanical Garden's 220-year history unfolds at the "Green Treasury" exhibition