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2019 Award Winner

The 2019 WDS Data Stewardship Award was won by

Dr Libby Liggins
(Massey University and 
Auckland Museum in Auckland)

Dr Liggins will be presented with the 2019 Award and a prize at SciDataCon 2021.

Dr Libby Liggins


Libby Liggins is an evolutionary ecologist who primarily uses molecular genomic data to address fundamental questions in population ecology, biodiversity, and biogeography in marine systems. She is a Senior Lecturer within the School of Natural and Computational Sciences of Massey University in Auckland, New Zealand, and a Research Associate of the Auckland Museum, Natural Sciences.

Libby is part of the Steering Committee for the Genomics Observatory Metadatabase (GEOME), purpose-built to capture the metadata associated with biological samples and genomic sequences and conforming to current international standards for biodiversity and genomic data. Libby is also a core member of the Diversity of the Indo-Pacific Network (DIPnet) that seeks to advance biodiversity science in the world’s largest biogeographic region through international collaboration. DIPnet members have developed the largest, curated, georeferenced population genetic/genomic database in the world, and forms the core of GEOME.

Partnering with these initiatives, Libby now leads the Ira Moana – Genes of the Sea – Project that is delivering a searchable metadatabase for New Zealand’s genetic and genomic data. The metadatabase aims to ensure the stewardship of genetic data resources, linking genetic sequences with information—such as location, date, and mana whenua (traditional indigenous guardians)—creating opportunities for data synthesis, helping manage data reuse, and informing future research directions for New Zealand. The Ira Moana Project has greater then 85 network members, representing 25 institutions. To date, the metadata of around 3,000 genetic samples from the New Zealand region have been uploaded. The Ira Moana Project aims to create the most comprehensive national database of genetic data in the world as a proof-of-concept for other nations.

Through collaboration with Local Contexts and Te Mana Rauranga (the Māori Data Sovereignty Network), the Ira Moana Project and GEOME are now beta-testing the capacity for researchers to add a Traditional Knowledge Notice (TK Notice) and new Biocultural Labels as metadata. TK Notices signal that there are accompanying indigenous rights that need further attention for any responsible and equitable future use of the data. Biocultural Labels further allow the addition of provenance information and community expectations for future use based on Indigenous Data Sovereignty principles—including CARE (Collective Benefit, Authority to Control, Responsibility, Ethics) Principles launched by the Global Indigenous Data Alliance—thereby enabling indigenous stewardship and persistent recognition of indigenous rights within an international framework of Nagoya compliance. The implementation of a TK Notice and Biocultural Labels using GEOME’s infrastructure is a first for a biological resource and for genetic data, establishing new ethical standards in this research community.