The core scientific activity of the EHI is to generate paired animal genomic and microbial metagenomic data of wild organisms worldwide, with individual animal specimens as study units. These units of information may be generated for multiple individuals per population, and multiple populations across climatic and habitat gradients per host species, so that spatial host genomic and microbial metagenomic variation is captured.
Generating such datasets requires coordinated transdisciplinary effort. The EHI is therefore willing to unite field animal biologists (e.g. ornithologists, mammalogists, herpethologists) with microbiologists, animal genomicists and data scientists around one common endeavour. Such an interdisciplinary setup will enable to make the best decisions regarding scientific questions addressed, sampling, sample processing and data analysis techniques employed, and logistics, among others.
Comparability, reproducibility and interoperability of research data is one of the main issues of current science. This is specially true in molecular microbial community analyses, as they are specially sensitive to sample collection, preservation and processing. Generating comparable hologenomic datasets of animals all over the world requires a strong standardisation effort to ensure samples are acquired and preserved in a uniform way, and all the relevant metadata is captured following standard criteria.
The EHI will adhere to the FAIR data principles, and ensure all produced data is made available for the research community with full accessibility, reproducibility and interoperability. The EHI aims at pioneering an open biological sample biobanking strategy in which the status of each sample, its origin and usage rights are publicly known. With this action we aim at maximising fieldwork effort, by making sample or DNA extract leftovers available for other researchers.
The standardised paired shotgun genomic and metagenomic dataset of wild animals and their associated microbial communities opens an ocean of research possibilities spanning both fundamental and applied research. We will employ the wealth of data generated across the projects adhered to the EHI to address questions regarding animal and microbial ecology and evolution, human health, animal conservation, etc.