What challenge does “The Animal Database” address?
The use of technology in animal biosciences is generating information in unprecedented volumes. Data are being generated under a wide variety of conditions (laboratory, research facilities, on farm). Each year, thousands of research trials are carried out on various aspects of farm animal genetic, metabolism, nutrition, physiology and behaviour. Keeping pace with the information generated and developing a holistic understanding of an ever growing state-of-the-art is not simple. The capture, integration, and valorization of the information generated each year by technology and research studies represents both a great challenge but also a tremendous opportunity to allow the sector to progress more effectively.
Datasets collected in Department of Animal Biosciences alone are growing rapidly and are expected to increase exponentially in size in the near future. Numerous animal phenotypes (immune responses, behavioral observations, nutritional information, bodily fluids such as milk, blood, rumen fluid, etc.) are being recorded. Various cost-effective information-sensing mobile devices are being implemented or will be implemented in the near future, including remote sensing, software logs, cameras, microphones, radio-frequency identification (RFID) readers and wireless sensor networks. Finally, genomic information (SNP-chip genotypes, next-generation sequence data, metagenomic and epigenetic information) are also being collected on a number of animals. The massive volume and the diversity in the format, scope, structure and pattern of this data are creating important challenges. Information is compiled and kept in idiosyncratic formats and media by different research groups. The entry of data from different studies is tedious. Finding and valorizing existing information is complicated. This leads to overlooking potentially valuable information.
How will this research address the challenge?
Considering this proliferation of large, complex data, the scope of applications of computational and statistical methods need to be adjusted appropriately. We therefore propose the development of a standardized and curated database, which will allow additional analyses enabling us to address higher-level, more comprehensive theoretical and experimental questions.
Offering a standardized yet flexible enough platform for compilation and safekeeping of data is highly beneficial to all researchers. By creating a centralized database for those involved in livestock research at UoG, the valuable data collected by its researchers across campus will not only be stored more safely and efficiently, it will also be easily accessible for further analyses.
What impact will the project have on agriculture?
The Animal Database will be designed to fully exploit current and future research results, opening novel avenues to more efficiently handle the various project activities and results. It will provide a platform for interdisciplinary research and will lay the groundwork for integrating precision livestock data into management and genetic programs.
Partners: Livestock Research and Innovation Centre, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
Collaborators and students: Jared Schenkels, Nathan Laundry, Laur Wright.