38 million NOK for environmental research on cod
Digital commitment on interdisciplinary projects aims to break down institutional borders
“I am pleasantly surprised,” says Professor and Head of Department of Biology Anders Goksøyr about the allocation of close to 40 million NOK (approximately 4.25 million Euros) to the project “dCod 1.0: decoding the systems toxicology of Atlantic cod - environmental genomics for ecosystem quality monitoring and risk assessment”. The project was one out of six projects that received major grants as parts of the Digital Life (no. Digitalt Liv) initiative from the Research Council of Norway’s BIOTEK2021 programme.
Investments for a digital future
Altogether, the programme board has granted 250 million NOK to the Digital Life – convergence for innovation initiative , which comprises a national centre of Digital life composed of six large research projects with focus areas ranging from aquaculture to brain research. The national centre for Digital Life will be led by Trygve Brautaset from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in close collaboration with the University of Oslo (UiO) and the University of Bergen (UiB). At UiB, the team will be led by the bio-informaticians at the Computational Biology Unit, who are in charge of building networks in competence and infrastructure, and through that assure that all the projects can benefit from the latest in analytical methods, bioinformatics and research design. The centre activities have been allocated 50 million NOK over a five year period.
Required: interdiciplinary competences
“The goal of the dCod-project is to combine the competencies in environmental toxicology, biology, bioinformatics and mathematics across the traditional department boundaries, to create a deeper understanding of cods' adaptations and reactions to stressors in the environment,” says Goksøyr.
“The cod genome has been thoroughly studied and mapped through the work led by the national sequencing center at UiO. At the Department of Biology here at UiB, there are long traditions for research on cod. We want to build on these traditions with methods based on genomics; where we will study how the cod genome is used under different environmental conditions. By generating large amounts of experimental data we want to create mathematical models that can describe these responses based on different scenarios. Overall, the goal is to create a tool for environmental monitoring and risk assessment that can be used in assessing the impacts of for example the oil industry, sewage discharge into harbours and industrial discharge into Norwegian fjords. Climate change and ocean acidification, in addition to cocktail effects of several stressors, will also be studied,” Goksøyr says.
National and international collaborations
The dCod-project will start in spring 2016, and will be carried out by a consortium led by UiB’s Department of Biology, in collaboration with the Department of Mathematics and the Department of Informatics at UiB and national partners from NTNU, UiO, the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU), the Institute of Marine Research (IMR), the National Institute of Nutrition and Seafood Research (NIFES) and the International Research Institute of Stavanger (IRIS). Additionally, further insights will be obtained through collaborations with international partners that include University of Gothenburg (Sweden) and CSIC (Barcelona, Spain) as well as Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (Massachusetts), Florida State University, and Ayasdi Inc (Stanford, California) (all in the United States).
“It is rare to see such large grants for interdisciplinary projects as in the Digital Life initiative. This will be a lot of fun!,” says Goksøyr.