Something very cute has happened: the University of Sydney and Amazon Web Services are partnering to establish a koala library. Okay, it’s a genome library, but even though it’s a repository of data, not a repository of koalas curled up reading books, I am charmed—and hard at work calling up koala-related images.
Plus, the koala library preserves real-life koalas (cute), despite just being letters. (Picture: koalas reading epistolary novels.) The genome library is an attempt to speed up koala conservation work; with an open-access library, scientists and conservationists can share research insights with each other rather than working in isolation. Said Carolyn Hogg, research manager of the University of Sydney Australasian Genomics group, to ZDNet, “We have to find multiple creative solutions to these [conservation] problems, and not be wedded to tools we developed in the ‘90s.” (Picture: koalas using old desktop computers. The furred hand on the mouse!)
According to Hogg, the data will help researchers compare and understand koala characteristics and understand the diversity of the species—as Hogg said, “Koalas from Queensland tend to be a little bit smaller and browner in color, while koalas in Victoria tend to be bigger, grey, and fluffier.” (Imagine them!) Generating the genome dataset will help pinpoint gene variants that help koalas survive—for instance, it’s possible that koalas living in warmer, drier areas might have genes that are important for dealing with climate change—and inform conservation efforts.
Also, the library is in the cloud. Just picture that.