Dr Miwa Takahashi

I am a postdoc researcher at Environomics FSP working on a project to make eDNA FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable). Environmental DNA (eDNA) is a revolutionary biomonitoring tool to detect species and map their distribution. The number of eDNA publications has exponentially increased in the past decade, with thousands of DNA sequences being generated and assigned to taxa in each publication. Once studies are published, most of those valuable data are often left sitting in personal or institutional backup drives. Some maybe accessible from supplementary materials of articles or on publicly available drives such as Dryad, but they are in various formats and use different vocabulary, hence not interoperable and reusable. My project will change this data life cycle and make them FAIR.

Why choose a career in science?

I was born and raised in Tokyo, I left my home when I was 18 and landed in Cairns to learn English and work as a diving instructor. As soon as I put my head underwater on the Great Barrier Reef, I fell in love with the natural world, started feeling concerned about the impacts on reefs, and decided I wanted to work to save them. This led me to an undergraduate degree in Marine Biology at James Cook University. During that degree, I volunteered on multiple research projects in the field, and I couldn’t think of anything else other than becoming a marine biologist who gets paid to dive and save the ocean.

What path have you followed to now?

I proceeded to an honours degree, worked and travelled after that, and finally did my PhD at Curtin University in Perth. During my PhD I discovered the magical world of molecular biology, and since then my work has focussed fully on eDNA. I am fascinated with what eDNA can do, I love using this tool to understand the ecology and changes in the environment, and I am convinced of its power to help us protect that natural world.

What is exciting about your project?

FAIR eDNA data will amplify the power of eDNA beyond what it can do now. It will enable us to do so many things including ecological modelling at extended spatio-temporal scales, conducting gap analyses to assess understudied taxa and regions, and generating knowledge at speed. Ultimately this will translate into better decision making. The best part is that all of this can happen with already existing datasets, so it is like recycling data, which suits me very well, since I love reusing and recycling, going to opshops and live in a house filled with verge side furniture.

What other interests do you have?

I love camping, hiking, snorkelling, kite surfing, diving and eating Japanese food.