Grainger Bioinformatics Center

A woman points to egg specimens in a tray while two people look on.

Using big data to tackle big questions about life on Earth.

With nearly 40 million items in our collections at the Field, we have a wealth of information about the natural world—from how Earth formed to how plants and animals are evolving today. But harnessing all that data can be a daunting and time-consuming task.

This is where the Grainger Bioinformatics Center comes in. Through this collaborative effort, we provide the computing power and data analysis to answer questions that seemed impossible in the past. Using computer science methods like DNA and genome analyses, pattern recognition, and machine learning to tap into collections data, we can unlock information that’s hidden in plain sight.

Felix Grewe and Rick Ree are the directors of the Bioinformatics Center.

Evolutionary biologists are studying lichen genomes to understand how these organisms—symbionts of fungi and algae or cyanobacteria—evolved over time.

Felix Grewe

The Java Sea Shipwreck collection includes thousands of ceramic pieces as well as elephant ivory. By sequencing elephant genomes, we can help trace the ancient ship’s route.

Pacific Sea Resources

Areas of focus

The Bioinformatics Center provides funding for Field scientists working on genomics and biodiversity informatics projects across research areas. It also gives postdocs, students, interns, and volunteers access to new research opportunities. 

From sequencing DNA and identifying evolutionary relationships to sharing digitized specimen data, we can build a more complete picture of life—past, present, and future.

Research accomplishments

The Grainger Bioinformatics Center was started in 2019 and contributes a significant portion of the Field’s scientific research each year, with many publications placed in top journals.

  • “Characterizing the ribosomal tandem repeat and its utility as a DNA barcode in lichen-forming fungi,” BMC Evolutionary Biology.

  • “Connectivity of Neotropical River Basins in the Central Guiana Shield Based on Fish Distributions,” Frontiers in Forests and Global Change.

  • “Signal evolution and morphological complexity in hummingbirds (Aves: Trochilidae),” Evolution.

  • “Speciation Associated with Shifts in Migratory Behavior in an Avian Radiation,” Current Biology.

  • “Genome-scale data reveal the role of hybridization in lichen-forming fungi,” Scientific Reports.

  • “Outline of Fungi and fungus-like taxa,” Mycosphere.

  • “Cassowary gloss and a novel form of structural color in birds,” Science Advances.

  • “Morphological innovation and biomechanical diversity in plunge‐diving birds,” Evolution.

  • “Abundance and extracellular release of phytohormones in aeroterrestrial microalgae (Trebouxiophyceae, Chlorophyta) as a potential chemical signalling source," Journal of Phycology.

  • “A new variety of Erythroxylum ulei from the Cordillera Escalera of Peru (Archerythroxylum, Erythroxylaceae),” Phytotaxa.

  • “The macroevolutionary dynamics of symbiotic and phenotypic diversification in lichens,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

  • “Genome-wide analysis of biosynthetic gene cluster reveals correlated gene loss with absence of usnic acid in lichen forming fungi,” Genome Biology and Evolution.

  • "The Origins of Coca: Museum Genomics Reveals Multiple Independent Domestications from Progenitor Erythroxylum gracilipes," Systematic Biology.

  • “Draft genome sequences of Ambrosiella cleistominuta, Cercospora brassicicola, C. citrullina, Physcia stellaris, and Teratosphaeria pseudoeucalypti,” IMA Fungus.

  • “A data-driven evaluation of lichen climate change indicators in Central Europe,” Biodiversity and Conservation.

  • “Using RADseq to understand the circum‐Antarctic distribution of a lichenized fungus, Pseudocyphellaria glabra.” Journal of Biogeography.

  • “Ancient orogenic and monsoon-driven assembly of the world’s richest temperate alpine flora,” Science.

  • “Genome-scale data resolve ancestral rock-inhabiting lifestyle in Dothideomycetes (Ascomycota),” IMA Fungus.

  • “Multilocus phylogeny of a cryptic radiation of Afrotropical long‐fingered bats (Chiroptera, Miniopteridae),” Zoologica Scripta.

  • “Molecular phylogenetics of slit‐faced bats (Chiroptera: Nycteridae) reveal deeply divergent African lineages,” Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research.

  • “phenotools: An R package for visualizing and analyzing phenomic datasets,” Methods in Ecology and Evolution

  • “Lycophyte plastid genomics: extreme variation in GC, gene and intron content and multiple inversions between a direct and inverted orientation of the rRNA repeat,” New Phytologist.

  • “Whole-Genome Sequence Data Uncover Widespread Heterothallism in the Largest Group of Lichen-Forming Fungi,” Genome Biology and Evolution.

  • “Patterns of small mammal diversity in fragments of subtropical Interior Atlantic Forest in eastern Paraguay Improving the understanding of mammals of Paraguay: taxonomy, ecology, and biogeography,” Mammalia

  • “De novo Development and Characterization of Tetranucleotide Microsatellite Loci Markers from a Southeastern Population of the House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus),” Journal of the Arkansas Academy of Science.

  • “Multiple historical processes obscure phylogenetic relationships in a taxonomically difficult group (Lobariaceae, Ascomycota),” Scientific Reports.