Skip to main content

Informed Biobanking

Safeguarding genetic diversity for today’s conservation decisions and tomorrow’s recovery efforts.
Wolf + dna icon

About the project

Revive & Restore, in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, has embarked on a bold endeavor to biobank U.S. endangered species. Together, we are forging a path to make biobanking standard practice in conservation.
View our special report on "Biobanking in the 21st Century"

Why biobank?

When a species is lost to extinction, we lose valuable and unrecoverable biological information. Biobanked samples have 3 immediate applications:
Wild herd of Przewalski’s horses (Equus przewalskii)
Preserving genetic diversity

When we cryopreserve living cells, we protect irreplaceable genetic diversity. This diversity is an essential resource for future restoration and recovery efforts.

Gel lanes in DNA sequencing
Managing with genomic insight

We can sequence DNA from biobanked materials to inform wildlife management decisions and identify opportunities to restore genetic diversity.

Thriving coral reef
Rescuing with technology

We can combine biobanked materials with advanced biotechnologies to reintroduce genetic diversity, advance reproductive tools, and recover lost species.

Why this work matters

Less than 13% of U.S. endangered plants and animals have living tissue cryopreserved.

Substantial efforts to preserve genetic diversity are underway, and one of the most important of these efforts is systematic, strategic biobanking of living cells. Biobanking is a vital safeguard for species’ genetic diversity, empowering their adaptation today and fueling recovery efforts in the future.

“Biobanking gives us the chance to save irreplaceable genetic diversity. If done right, it creates a marker-in-time and gives future recovery biologists options, like genetic rescue, that are only possible if we act now!”

Seth Willey

Deputy Assistant Regional Director
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services

See the process in action

Sherman traps are set in the field, as part of a population survey.

An endangered Preble’s meadow jumping mouse (Zapus hudsonius preblei) is captured.

A small piece of skin is clipped before release. Cells will be sequenced and cryopreserved for long-term storage.

Elizabeth Ann:
A case study for the power of biobanking

In 1988, cells from a female black-footed ferret were cryopreserved at the SDZWA Frozen Zoo®, for reasons “not yet understood.”  Those cells fueled the cloning of Elizabeth Ann over three decades later.

Elizabeth Ann is unrelated to all extant black-footed ferrets and has the potential to restore much-needed genetic diversity back to her species. Her birth showed us the impact that biobanked cells can have on endangered species conservation.

From biobanking to a living, breathing animal: Watch this video to see how cryopreservation in 1988 led to the first cloning of a U.S. endangered species.

Special thanks to our partners, colleagues, and funders

This initiative was made possible through collaboration and forging critical partnerships with public and private organizations, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, ViaGen Pets & Equine, and U.S. Department of Agriculture: ARS. Additional collaborators include the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance and St. Louis Zoo.