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Laval, Oxford Universities Establish Forest Genomics Consortium

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Université Laval in Quebec City and the University of Oxford have partnered to create an international consortium in forest genomics, regional funding agency Genome Quebec said yesterday.

The consortium will be led by John MacKay, full professor at Université Laval and a professor of forest science at Oxford University, and will address the major scientific challenges involving the productivity and sustainability of both natural and managed forests.

A spokesperson for Genome Quebec told GenomeWeb in an email that the consortium is still in the development stage, and although it has initiated discussions with other partners in Canada and other leading nations in forest genomics, no relationships have been formalized yet.

Given their economic significance, forest resources are a top government priority in Canada, Genome Quebec noted. Genomics technology provides a valuable method of identifying the potential of individual trees and lines of trees, and as such can help address the challenge of forest sustainability, the agency noted.

Specifically, next-generation sequencing will play a large role in scientific projects under the consortium, the spokesperson said.

"NGS technologies can be used to address many different questions related to the challenges that are facing trees and forests, including pests and pathogens, adaptability to environmental change, forest productivity, and bioenergy production from woody biomass," the spokesperson noted.

Many relevant forest genomics projects are already underway in Quebec, including, for instance, some dealing with the spruce budworm, a major threat to forest health and the lumber industry.