Christopher James Barnes

I started my PhD researching the fungi found on plant roots, using newly developed sequencing technologies (at that time), and complex statistics to better understand the ecology of these organisms. Since moving to the Natural History Museum of Denmark, I have used these skills to study many different aspects of plant biology.

Through being part of the museum, I became interested in using old specimens that have been in storage for hundreds of years to tell new stories. Unfortunately, as DNA degrades over time, we have developed a host of methods for dealing with poor quality DNA to tell new stories. For examples, the fever tree (Cinchona calisaya) was the cure for malaria from the 1600s to the 1950s. Through modern sequencing methods and working with museum curators, we found that indigenous South American people could find the best trees for treating fevers and where early European plant collectors were sampling.

In the TIMBER project I am interested in developing a sequencing approach to complement dendrochronological analyses in determining the provenance of oak specimens. The DNA in wood is never normally of high-quality, and being submerged for hundreds of years exasperates this issue further. I will be supporting Paloma Fernandez Dias-Maroto in developing a protocol to isolate the DNA from the oaks and exclude the vast quantity of contaminating microbial DNA. I will also be supporting her in bioinformatic analyses, taking sequencing data and determining the oak’s provenance from it.

Relevant publications

  • Canales, Nataly Allasi… Barnes, CJ. "Historical chemical annotations of Cinchona bark collections are comparable to results from current day high-pressure liquid chromatography technologies." Journal of ethnopharmacology 249 (2020): 112375.
  • Foutami, I. J., Mariager, T., Rinnan, R., Barnes, C. J., & Rønsted, N. (2018). Hundred fifty years of herbarium collections provide a reliable resource of volatile terpenoid profiles showing strong species effect in four medicinal species of Salvia across the Mediterranean. Frontiers in plant science9.
  • Barnes, C. J., Maldonado, C., Cornett, C., Holmfred, E., Hansen, S. H., Persson, C. & Rønsted, N. (2017). Phylogeny predicts the quantity of antimalarial alkaloids within the iconic yellow Cinchona bark (Rubiaceae: Cinchona calisaya). Frontiers in plant science8, 391.