Our project


UniEuk Vision

Universal taxonomic frameworks have been critical tools to structure the fields of botany, zoology, mycology, and bacteriology as well as their large research communities. Animals, plants, and fungi have relatively solid, stable morphotaxonomies built over the last three centuries, while bacteria have been classified for the last three decades under a coherent molecular taxonomic framework. By contrast, no such common language exists for microbial eukaryotes, even though environmental ‘-omics’ surveys suggest that protists make up most of the organismal and genetic complexity of our planet’s ecosystems! With the current deluge of eukaryotic meta-omics data, we urgently need to build up a universal eukaryotic taxonomy bridging the protist -omics age to the fragile, centuries-old body of classical knowledge that has effectively linked protist taxa to morphological, physiological, and ecological information.


UniEuk is an open, inclusive, community-based and expert-driven international initiative to build a flexible, adaptive universal taxonomic framework for eukaryotes. It unites three complementary modules, EukRef, EukBank, and EukMap, which use phylogenetic markers, environmental metabarcoding surveys, and expert knowledge to inform the taxonomic framework. The UniEuk taxonomy is directly implemented in the European Nucleotide Archive at EMBL-EBI, ensuring its broad use and long-term preservation as a reference taxonomy for eukaryotes.

UniEuk Workflow

Bottom-up, community-based information on eukaryotic biodiversity from (A) classical knowledge, (B) phylogenetic diversity, and (C) environmental ‘-omics’ surveys, converge and synergize through the UniEuk modules to inform the navigable and editable, consensus-driven taxonomic framework (D). Dotted and colored frames indicate input and output information, respectively.


(Line drawings of eukaryotes adapted with permission from https://genev.unige.ch/system/pawlowski/lab/tree.png.)

What UniEuk is

  • First priority = focus on overall eukaryotic taxonomy (“do one thing and do it well”)
  • A high-priority effort, very pragmatic, but not necessarily all encompassing (high quality over comprehensiveness); a flexible and adaptive system
  • An effort to organize eukaryotic names and taxonomy from the already-existing collective knowledge in the community
  • An effort to give preliminary, standardized names (codes) to the majority of eukaryotic biodiversity which is still nameless (purely environmental sequences)
  • A dynamic, consensus taxonomic framework representation that evolves in response to developments and community input (in the longer-term: will gradually include other groups of organisms to improve the system)
  • A common reference for interpreting all sorts of genetic and morphological eukaryotic data
  • A single, integrative (different types of information) framework to facilitate studies of ecology and environments, which include the biocomplexity of eukaryotic life

What UniEuk is not

  • An effort to create analytical platforms for downstream analysis (but some may be by-products of the project)
  • Creating new reference genetic databases (but will actively link to existing and future ones)
  • An image database (not asking the world for all of their images)
  • A forum or vehicle where people can hash out very specific issues of taxonomy (“if we do that, it will never reach the end goal”)
  • Perfect: at the cost of being pragmatic, there are going to be imperfections; we have to accept that and move on
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