The world’s wildlife is facing threats caused by climate change, from loss of good habitat to dwindling food supplies. As a result, endangered species across the U.S. are approaching extinction at alarming rates—and if they disappear, critical genetic information may disappear with them.
In a new initiative announced Tuesday, the US Fish & Wildlife Service is working with the nonprofit Refresh & Restore and other partners to create a national “genetic library” of endangered species—before it’s too late.
Through a process called biobanking, FWS field workers collect biological samples such as blood, tissues and reproductive cells from animals to be cryogenically stored at very low temperatures (as low as -256 degrees Fahrenheit ) and stored at the USDA facility in Colorado. The samples will also be genotyped and this information will be downloaded to a publicly available database called GenBankwhere researchers can study them and compare their genomes to other members of their species.
A frozen library of living cells could be important for current and future conservation efforts, especially for helping to introduce genetic diversity into captive breeding programs working to restore species populations or even clones, experts say.
Twenty-first century “conservation challenges require 21st century conservation tools,” Seth Willey, regional deputy director of ecological services for the FWS’s Southwest region, told Insider News in an email. “Biobanking is one such tool that allows us to preserve some of the biodiversity that exists today and make sure that it is not lost forever.”
Since the project was launched in January, the partners have already collected and collected samples from five endangered species, including the Mexican wolf, the Florida bat and the Sonoran pronghorn. Although the pilot part of the program includes 24 US endangered mammals, the ultimate goal is much more ambitious: to biobank every endangered animal in the country, creating “a repository for -our American heritage” of biodiversity, according to Ryan Phelan, the director. director has revived & returned.