Researchers in Puerto Rico have taken the concept of public funding for genome research to a new level. Paid for with money raised from art and fashion shows and private donations, scientists and students at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez have sequenced the genome of the critically endangered Puerto Rican parrot (Amazona vittata)—and maybe introduced a new model for genome research.   

The group’s results were published today in the international open-access journal GigaScience.  

The critically endangered Puerto Rican parrot is the last remaining native parrot in US territory. By the mid-1970’s, only 16 individuals had survived the destruction of the species’ habitat. The low numbers resulted in very little diversity, so breeders sought a way to indentify individual birds for their breeding programs.