Since the beginning of my career, I have been trained as an independent researcher, developing by myself the hypotheses, methodology and analysis protocols of my projects. However, this is not to imply there was no cooperation involved! I firmly believe that science is a collaborative endeavor, and thus have been actively engaged in many synergistic activities. Below are a few recent examples:
Working on a poorly studied group such as the Ichneumonidae makes it hard to meet fellow researchers and discuss the current perspectives and challenges for research in the group. That’s what motivated my colleagues Seraina Klopfstein (Basel Natural History Museum), Gavin Broad (The Natural History Museum London) and myself to organize a world-class gathering of ichneumonid researchers. In June 24-28, we assembled 21 experts from 18 countries in Basel, Switzerland, for the meeting: “Identifying the next challenges in ichneumonid systematics and evolutionary ecology”. Our five-day meeting had it all: individual talks, joint panels, collective sessions of morphological character coding, critical examination of my latest UCE trees, and of course plenty of discussions of future collaborations! The meeting was funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation.
Project managing: barcoding NMNH invertebrate genera
As part of my service at the Global Genome Initiative, I was the project manager for an initiative aiming to generate DNA barcodes for all the genera of terrestrial invertebrates at the NMNH. This was a partnership with the University of Guelph and its Centre for Biodiversity Genomics, the global leader in the field of DNA barcoding. Teams from UoG would periodically come to the NMNH collection and pull out hundreds of specimens for genera that have no current records in GenBank or BOLD. Specimen processing and sequencing took place in Guelph and the vouchers were then returned to the NMNH in the next visit. As project manager, I acted as the liaison between the Guelph teams, NMNH curators, and GGI staff, making sure that the visits went smoothly, paperwork was taken care of, the proper taxa were sampled and that everybody was up to date on the workflow! The project ensured DNA barcoding of thousands of genera that had never been barcoded before, with the added benefit of using reliably identified museum specimens. This will greatly enhance scientists’ ability to quickly and safely identify rare and poorly studied species when they are collected again.
UCE workshop and training
After processing and enriching over 1,300 samples for UCE sequencing at the NMNH, I became somewhat of a reference to incoming students and postdocs when it came to lab work. This is pretty incredible, because when I first started doing molecular work I never thought I would be any good at it! So in 2019-2020 I unofficially took the role of training other in-house and visiting researchers on the use of UCEs, from project design to lab work and on to bioinformatic analyses. We had two editions of such workshops, in fact a long series of lab sessions with hands-on training in all steps of the UCE pipeline. Since then, former “students” of the course have already processed over 2,000 samples for UCE sequencing!