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Helmholtz Munich | ©Almut Barden

Protecting Biodiversity: Genomic Monitoring Project Receives BMBF Grant

Awards & Grants, Pioneer Campus,

One of the pressing concerns for environmental conservation and the health of our planet is the loss of biodiversity. Due to limitations in current genomic monitoring efforts, Dr. Lara Urban and her team at Helmholtz Munich are pioneering GEBIKI, a non-invasive approach using real-time sequencing, AI, and remote sensing to comprehensively monitor biodiversity on both small and large scales. With substantial funding from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), this innovative framework aims to yield profound insights into biodiversity changes and their impact on human health.

Biodiversity – the wide variety of plants, animals, and microorganisms on our planet - is essential for the health and stability of the ecosystem on Earth. However, biodiversity is under threat due to various factors, including the destruction of natural habitats. On top of that, estimations expect this issue to worsen even more in the future. Current efforts of genomic monitoring are a step in the right direction to combat biodiversity loss, however, there are relevant limitations. Mostly these approaches are not universally applicable to all species and suffer from technical issues.

Dr. Lara Urban, Principal Investigator at Helmholtz AI and the PioneerCampus at Helmholtz Munich, set out to revolutionize biodiversity monitoring. She and her team are developing GEBIKI, a comprehensive and non-invasive method for monitoring biodiversity. This method will use advanced technology like real-time sequencing and artificial intelligence (AI), along with remote sensing, to map both small and large-scale biodiversity. “This BMBF project gives us the amazing chance to make our collaboration between microbiology, AI, remote sensing, biodiversity, and industrial researchers a reality. I am excited to try and use these transdisciplinary efforts for actual biodiversity monitoring improvements in the future.”, explains Lara Urban further.

Starting in November 2023, Lara Urban will receive funding of from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) to create an AI-based framework generating novel insights on biodiversity changes within and across all species. Furthermore, the resulting knowledge will provide a valuable understanding of the implications of biodiversity loss on human health.

In partnership with Dr. Michael Schloter from the Institute of Comparative Microbiome Analysis at Helmholtz Munich, and Dr. Bernhard Goodwin from the Munich Science Communication Laboratory, as well as Dr. Yuanyuan Wang from the German Aerospace Center (DLR), and the conservation company Faunomics, the scientific team will employ cutting-edge technology in their initial efforts to gain a deeper understanding of biodiversity. Subsequently, the project will extend its assessments across Germany, and in the future also beyond to delve into how human activities affect biodiversity, particularly at the genetic level.


More information

Read more about Lara Urban and her research at Helmholtz AI and at the Helmholtz Pioneer Campus.

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