TraitNet, TraitBank- Global Resources for Biodiversity Conservation

EICES, E3B and other partners

Funded by the National Science Foundation, the Columbia Department of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology’s TraitNet is dedicated to the advancement and integration of trait-based evolutionary and ecological research. Traits are variously defined, but essentially concern species’ properties that affect individual fitness and govern species’ impacts and responses to their environment. Trait-based research spans an enormous array of ecological and evolutionary disciplines. While each discipline has sought to define traits, apply trait data to test theory, establish protocols for the quantification of traits, and build multi-user databases, little coordination or interaction has occurred across disciplines. TraitNet addresses this extraordinary opportunity to facilitate integration and synthesis across this array of disciplines. TraitNet was developed by Professor Shahid Naeem at the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology (E3B) and Daniel Bunker, assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

The Earth Institute Center for Environmental Sustainability, E3B, and other collaborators mainly from the Earth Institute, Columbia University, are working to structure TraitNet around the design of a prototypical universal trait database, “TraitBank.” The concept of TraitBank is based on “GenBank,” a bioinformatic resource for molecular biology and biotechnology that has advanced basic research and medical technology, and triggered major initiatives like the Human Genome project. Similarly, TraitBank, can become an extraordinary resource for research, innovation and global environmental problem solving.