The classification of organisms, known as taxonomy, is an essential branch of science. Taxonomy tells us how organisms are related to one another using both morphology and genetic information. Through established taxonomic frameworks, for example for plants and animals, scientists and non-scientists are better able to understand the diversity of life on earth.

Yet, one taxonomic framework is surprisingly absent: one for single-celled microeukaryotes (microscopic organisms with a distinct nucleus). Their intricate body types, evolutionary history and puzzling life strategies complicate characterization efforts leaving a current gap in the language to describe these organisms.

To fill this taxonomy gap, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation is supporting “UniEuk” — a Universal taxonomic framework for classifying single-celled Eukaryotic microorganisms. UniEuk is an open, inclusive, community-based and expert-driven international initiative. Recently, the effort was formally announced in the Journal of Eukaryotic Microbiology. In the announcement, the authors discuss why single-celled microeukaryote taxonomy is needed and how the community can work together to bring it about through UniEuk.

The UniEuk project is an example of how, through the Science Program, we have supported the creation of tools and infrastructure to help understand and analyze organisms through a taxonomic lens.  

Read more about the Science program here.

This project also complements two Moore Foundation Marine Microbiology Initiative activities: (1) the Marine Microbial Eukaryote Transcriptome Sequencing Project, a community effort to characterize the gene content of over 400 unique microbial eukaryotes, and (2) the Experimental Model Systems portfolio, aimed at screening microbial eukaryotes for genetic transformability and developing genetic tools in microbial eukaryote groups. Learn more about the Marine Microbiology Initiative here.

To connect with and join the UniEuk effort, visit



Help us spread the word.

If you know someone who is interested in this field or what we are doing at the foundation, pass it along.

Get Involved

Related Stories