Powering Research and Decision-making for Australian Biodiversity and Agriculture

The Australian Tree of Life Informatics Capability is establishing a new digital framework to bridge the gap between the generation of genomics data and its application in on-the-ground actions. This program will equip researchers and decision-makers with the tools to leverage cutting-edge genomics technologies, enabling them to more effectively manage and safeguard Australia’s precious biodiversity and agricultural resources.

Australia is one of a few megadiverse regions in the world. It is home to around 10 percent of the world’s species, with around 80 percent of Australia’s native species not occurring naturally anywhere else. National strategic plans for biodiversity and biosecurity emphasise the importance of making informed, data-driven decisions to support this unique environment and the primary industries that flourish in it.

Various endeavours, including the Bioplatforms National Initiatives, are currently producing essential genetic and genomic data, such as reference genomes. Whole genome sequencing acts as a cornerstone resource, facilitating discoveries such as identifying previously unknown species, uncovering novel genes for innovative applications, and understanding organism functions in nature and agriculture, and exploring their variability and interactions.

Generating genomic data for all relevant Australian species, and making it relevant to real-world application is an immense undertaking, requiring that we intensify our efforts.  Our challenge is to develop a system that continues to foster enhanced collaboration, expedites data generation, assembly and analysis, and provides specialised platforms tailored to effectively deciphering this data for real-world use.

The Australian Tree of Life Informatics Capability is addressing this challenge by establishing two new infrastructures:


1. The Australian Tree of Life – Genome Engine

The Genome Engine will accelerate the assembly and annotation of referential genomic data for species relevant to Australia. Building on existing Bioplatforms investments in data generation (via National Initiatives) and data analytics services (via Australian BioCommons),  it will allow Australian species to be studied from molecular to population scales. Researchers will be provided access to automatically produced genome assemblies, annotations and published Genome Notes soon after the raw sequencing data has been created.

The infrastructure will leverage approaches developed by the UK-based Wellcome Sanger Institute’s Darwin Tree of Life project and Galaxy infrastructure supporting the Vertebrate Genomes Project, bringing their workflows and methodologies to Australia.


2. The Australian Tree of Life – Applied Data Laboratories

Applied Data Laboratories will generate meaningful and actionable information for decision-makers based on genomic resources, such as those made available by the Genome Engine.

Applied Data Laboratories will be developed in consultation with end-user communities such as those involved with the Plant Pathogen, Pest Management, and Functional Fungi Bioplatforms National Initiatives. Our objective is to allow more researchers, industry and government professionals, and policy makers to harness the power of genomics to inform on-the-ground actions that secure Australia’s primary industries, nature, and biodiversity.

This work will build on a concept from the Threatened Species Initiative (TSI), where Bioplatforms, in partnership with the University of Sydney and RONIN, has invested in the development of the TSI Biodiversity Portal. Scheduled for release in mid-2024, the Portal will empower threatened species managers to sequence and interpret population genetics data, generating reports tailored to inform species recovery actions.


Together, this digital capability will help to bridge the gap between generating and applying genomic data, significantly improving Australia’s capacity to leverage recent advances in next-generation sequencing. This will play a crucial role in preserving our unique biodiversity and safeguarding Australia’s primary industries, food systems and environments.

This digital research infrastructure initiative is enabled by the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS).


For further information and updates, please contact:

Dr Nigel Ward – A/Director – Platforms, Australian BioCommons


Sarah Richmond – General Manager Science Program, Bioplatforms Australia



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