Mapping our planet’s microbial biodiversity with Basecamp Research

Basecamp Research
5 min readJul 21


DNA monitoring has emerged as a revolutionary tool for monitoring biodiversity, providing scientists with a non-invasive, cost-effective method for tracking species presence and diversity across ecosystems. This powerful approach holds immense potential to revolutionise conservation efforts worldwide.

However, the use of DNA monitoring of areas such as soil health still suffers from a lack of baseline reference conditions — the soil biodiversity of diverse ecosystems is still largely uncharted.

At Basecamp Research, we have built a partnership-driven commercial biodiscovery program that spans the globe. Our mission is to use commercial biodiscovery to seamlessly connect biodiversity with the bioeconomy, fostering a sustainable future for both natural ecosystems and human industries.

Alongside our commercial biodiscovery, we have established a baseline reference atlas of microbial biodiversity spanning diverse ecosystems worldwide. We believe that, as this resource continues to grow, it can provide an invaluable tool for those working at the forefront of conservation monitoring and we hope that it will help unlock our ability to detect and respond to changes in ecosystems before they reach a point of no return.

To collaborate with Basecamp Research on our Microbe Map, please contact

Biodiversity depends on healthy microbes…

Biodiversity loss is one of the greatest challenges facing humankind. The iconic greats of the natural world are under serious threat; 10,000 acres of the Amazon is lost every day, the Great Barrier Reef has lost half its coral cover in the past 25 years from global warming induced ocean acidification and 1 million species are currently threatened with extinction.

Microbes play a crucial role in keeping ecosystems healthy and balanced. There is a strong, but poorly understood, link between microbial biodiversity and the well-being of larger plants and animals. Disruption of microbial communities can lead major biodiversity loss and has knock on effects on the climate. Improving our understanding of our planet’s invisible microbial biodiversity should provide us with a fast, comprehensive and data-driven way of safeguarding entire ecosystems.

A Basecamp team member admires the work of microbes in a remote jungle

Microbes are everywhere…

The remarkable world of microbes extends to every corner of our planet; they inhabit a vast array of environments that often defy the limits of human imagination. From the scorching heat of deep sea hydrothermal vents to the frigid depths of Antarctica’s ice sheets, these microscopic organisms display extraordinary adaptability and resilience. They can be found thriving in the soil beneath our feet, floating through the air we breathe, and even residing within the bodies of plants, animals, and humans. This omnipresence makes microbes indispensable players in the interconnected web of life, as they contribute to essential ecosystem functions and support the survival of countless other species.

The Basecamp Research team hunting for new microbes in our planet’s most extreme environments. From left to right, the microbiome of an elephant seal (affectionately known as ‘Dave’), the glaciers of Iceland, the deep sea hydrothermal events near the Azores and an active volcano

But we know very, very little about the microbes on our planet…

Despite our ever-growing understanding of the natural world, a staggering amount of biodiversity remains unexplored, particularly within the realm of microbial life. Estimates suggest that there are over 1 trillion species on Earth, and that we we have identified a miniscule (<0.00001%) fraction of those that are out there. This untapped wealth of biodiversity holds the potential to unlock new insights into ecological processes, natural product discovery, and biotechnological innovations. Mapping this largely unknown facet of biodiversity, which will empower us to better comprehend, protect, and sustain the intricate web of life that inhabits our planet.

Basecamp is mapping microbes for the discovery of novel biotechnologies — all of which promise a cleaner, healthier and more sustainable future for all

Basecamp is mapping microbes on a massive scale…

We are working with collaborators across the world to build our Microbe Map, a comprehensive and contextualised map of the invisible microbial ecosystem. So far, our map of microbial biodiversity covers more than 20 countries.

We have teamed up with local stakeholders, national decision makers and the international scientific community to conduct detailed surveys of the unexplored microbial world using our unique, portable laboratory.

Basecamp Research is on a mission to build a bridge between biodiversity and the bioeconomy — motivating the protection of our natural world and identifying new biotechnologies for a cleaner, healthier and more sustainable future.

Prior to any sample collection, we obtain prior informed consent from each protected area in accordance with international, national and local regulations, including the Nagoya Protocol. Within each ecoregion we visit, we take small samples from each different habitat present to give us a comprehensive read of the microbial biodiversity in the area. This means that our impact on the local landscape is kept to an absolute minimum.

To understand the microbial composition of samples, Basecamp Research’s Field Team uses our rapidly deployable and fully portable metagenomic sequencing laboratory in the field. This allows us to analyse microbial biodiversity onsite in real time, anywhere on earth, without risking sample degradation.

Basecamp’s portable molecular biology lab packs up into a tent and can be powered by solar power alone.

Back in our London HQ, our world leading data science team analyses the samples to unlock the novel microbial biodiversity in a given location and provide extra information for the contextual relationships between organisms, genes and metabolites. This information is stored in BaseGraph™, our proprietary knowledge graph, which allows us to identify novel proteins that can be used for biology based solutions in the biotechnology sector. After only 2 years of sampling, our database is already significantly larger than UniProt (a key public reference database) and is 4x more diverse.

Our microbe map can act as new baseline for DNA monitoring in conservation

We already give our local partners insight into the microbial communities within their protected areas to help with a vast array of research, conservation and agricultural projects. We are now looking to expand collaborations with those in conservation — our atlas of microbial biodiversity spans diverse ecosystems worldwide and we believe that, as this resource continues to grow, it can provide an invaluable tool for those working at the forefront of conservation monitoring (particularly those using DNA).

We hope that, through these collaborations, this unique map of our planet’s invisible microbial biodiversity will help unlock our ability to detect and respond to changes in ecosystems before they reach a point of no return.

To collaborate with Basecamp Research on our Microbe Map, please contact