We examine the crafting of publics in the global Barcoding of Life Initiative (BOLI)—seen as crucial for re invigorating, and democratizing, early-twentyfirst- century taxonomic sciences and hence for actually achieving biodiversity protection. Our approach to the issue of publics differs from that of conventional public understanding of or engagement with science work. Combining science and technology studies with critical political theory allows us to examine the discursive and material formation of publics occurring within the science of DNA barcoding. Co-productionist theory suggests BOLI to be actively crafting its prospective publics imaginatively, as an integral part of its selfcomposition as public science. Drawing on the work of Laclau’s On Populist Reason, we examine how such normatively weighted abstract publics are necessarily chronically incomplete, with an unavoidable tension between the universal and the particular.