Project Psyche

Lepidopteran genomes for Europe

Sampling Hubs

To generate chromosomal reference assemblies by the end of 2024, Psyche has established six sampling hubs. Each hub has set out to seek out and cryo-preserve at least 200 species of Lepidoptera. All sequencing for this phase is being conducted at the Wellcome Sanger Institute. To read more about the three phases of the project, visit our Roadmap.

These hubs are:

  • Wellcome Sanger Institute, UK
  • University of Oulu, Finland
  • University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland
  • Institute of Evolutionary Biology, Spain
  • Lund University, Sweden
  • University of Florence, Italy

Hub leads


Mark Blaxter

Wellcome Sanger Institute, UK

Mark Blaxter leads the Sanger Institute’s Tree of Life programme, generating and analysing reference genome sequences from thousands of species across the tree of life, including the biota of Britain and Ireland (Darwin Tree of Life), symbiotic organisms (Aquatic Symbiosis Genomics) and international initiatives (Earth BioGenome Project). His research focuses on the genomics of neglected, non-model organisms and the interpretation of those genomes in ecological and evolutionary contexts. Before joining Sanger, he was Professor of Evolutionary Genomics in the University of Edinburgh. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 2014.

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Claudia Bruschini

University of Florence

Claudia Bruschini, a Post-Doctoral researcher at the University of Florence, specializes in chemical communication in social insects and venom analysis in social Hymenoptera using GC-MS. Her research interests include insect biogeography, systematics, and conservation. She investigates historical and present factors influencing species distributions using mt-DNA analysis. She actively contributes to the development of DNA barcoding libraries, collecting samples from diverse insect species. Additionally, she conducts Lepidoptera surveys through transects, focusing on conservation and assessing species vulnerable to climate change, especially in Mediterranean regions.

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Leonardo Dapporto

University of Florence, Italy

Leonardo Dapporto leads the Numerical and Experimental Zoology Lab, based in the Biology Department of the University of Florence. Leonardo’s interests lie in integrating different approaches to understanding insect diversity. Leonardo applies eclectic taxonomy to identify diversity elements and comparative analyses to describe the distribution patterns of species and their genetic lineages. They are also strongly involved in conservation actions devoted to safeguarding insects populations through monitoring activity and habitat amelioration. To achieve their research and conservation goals, they make large use of citizen science data also promoting its use in dedicated events.

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Vlad Dinca

University of Oulu, Finland

Vlad Dinca is currently working as an Academy Research Fellow in the Ecology and Genetics Research Unit at the University of Oulu, Finland. He has always been passionate about Lepidoptera and his research uses these insects, in particular Western Palearctic butterflies, as models to learn more about speciation, cryptic species, phylogeography, and the impacts of environmental change, but also to inform conservation programmes.

He is extremely excited to be part of Project Psyche – this is both due to its challenges and to its great potential to open new horizons using genomics, with countless possibilities to understand more about Lepidoptera and life in general.

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Kay Lucek

University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland

Kay Lucek currently leads the Biodiversity Genomics Lab at the University of Neuchâtel funded through the SNSF Eccellenza program. Being fascinated about the evolutionary mechanisms that underlie the outstanding diversity of Lepidoptera, the group studies the role of chromosomal rearrangements during speciation, the various outcomes of secondary contact as well as cryptic species for conservation.

The Biodiversity Genomics Lab is proud to be part of the Psyche project as it provides the unique opportunity to bring together people with various backgrounds at a pan-European level, advancing the field of evolutionary biology even beyond Lepidoptera.

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Joana Meier

Wellcome Sanger Institute, UK

Joana Meier is a Royal Society URF and a group leader at the Tree of Life Programme at the Wellcome Sanger Institute and a Branco Weiss Fellow at the University of Cambridge. Her group works on factors contributing to rapid speciation, with a focus on hybridisation and chromosomal rearrangements. She is very excited about the possibility that project Psyche brings for comparative analyses across Lepidoptera in Europe.

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Marko Mutanen

University of Oulu

Marko Mutanen is a Senior Curator in the Ecology and Genetics Research Unit of the University of Oulu, Finland. He is currently leading the Finnish Barcode of Life project, the Insect Bioliteracy research group, the Biodiverse Anthropocenes university research profiling programme and several other research projects broadly focussing on biodiversity genomics. His present research also focusses on developing efficient genomic approaches to speed-up taxonomic workflows of the ‘dark taxa’. The project Psyche will make the European Lepidoptera a unique model to address a variety of important questions on all levels of biodiversity.  As a keen collector, Mutanen will contribute to specimens sampling particularly regarding the North European fauna.”

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Roger Vila

Institute of Evolutionary Biology, Spain 

Roger Vila is CSIC Researcher at the Institute of Evolutionary Biology (CSIC-UPF) in Barcelona, Spain, where he leads the Butterfly Diversity and Evolution Lab. He studies insect diversity patterns in time and space, and their evolutionary causes. Usually butterflies, but also other insects like ants, are used as model systems to answer general questions regarding the limits between species, how species are created, and the link between phylogeography and ecology. He has extensive experience in field work, having made multiple expeditions worldwide.

The project Psyche is like a dream come true for him: it will provide an invaluable tool to explore biodiversity and will boost our knowledge on butterflies and moths.

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Niklas Wahlberg

Lund University, Sweden

Niklas Wahlberg is a professor in biological systematics at Lund University, Sweden. He has worked on the phylogenetics of Lepidoptera for over 20 years, pioneering the use of Sanger sequenced markers in the molecular systematics of Lepidoptera. With the advent of genomic technology, he and his group have focussed on developing protocols to sequence whole genomes from museum specimens, i.e. museomics. Assembling the often highly fragmented genomes of museum specimens benefit greatly from reference quality genomes of related species. The project Psyche promises to generate such high quality reference genomes, which will be highly interesting for systematics of Lepidoptera in themselves, as well as highly beneficial for museomics projects.

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Charlotte Wright

Wellcome Sanger Institute, UK

Charlotte Wright is a PhD student in the Sanger Institute’s Tree of Life programme. Charlotte’s PhD has focused on studying chromosome evolution across Lepidoptera using the hundreds of chromosomal genomes generated by the Darwin Tree of Life project. Charlotte is keen to build upon the success of these initiatives, expanding the sequencing of Lepidoptera to across Europe and enabling a deeper understanding of the process that drive chromosome evolution in this megadiverse order of insects.

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