Biodiversity Banking

What is biodiversity banking?

Biodiversity banking is the preservation of biological materials, which includes cryopreserving cells, gametes, seeds, and tissues. The world is undergoing widespread, rapid loss of wildlife and ecosystems, and we must urgently preserve genetic diversity through biobanking if we wish to understand, characterize, and conserve biodiversity before its gone.

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tubes in a box
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woman inspecting specimen in microscope
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two foals

San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance’s
Wildlife Biodiversity Bank

The Wildlife Biodiversity Bank is the umbrella term for all the biological materials preserved by San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. We have living and non-living materials, stored either frozen or non-frozen. Together, these represent an invaluable collection of scientific information that can be applied toward advancing wildlife conservation, health, care, and education. 

San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance is at the forefront of global biodiversity banking efforts, and our leadership is driven by collaboration: teams across our organization contribute and utilize materials, and we receive and share samples and data with scientists worldwide.  

Biodiversity banks like ours have become an essential means to understand and save species in the face of increasing biodiversity loss. Further, as novel technologies emerge, biobanks lay the foundation for trailblazing conservation solutions by bridging today’s samples to tomorrow’s scientific potential. 

The Wildlife Biodiversity Bank contains millions of samples, diverse in both type and taxa, and is organized into six subcollections

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Tissue and DNA Bank: Tissues, DNA, blood, and cells
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Frozen Zoo: Gametes (sperm and eggs), embryos, and cells
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Native Plant Gene Bank: Seeds, plant cuttings, and herbarium vouchers (pressed and dried specimens)
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Pathology Archive: Tissues, microbes, DNA< and RNA
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Clinical Repository: Bodily fluids and blood components (plasma and serum)
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Wildlife Artifacts: Skeletal replicas and items naturally shed or lost (such as feathers and leaves)
rhino baby with adult rhino

Center for Species Survival:
Biodiversity Banking

 

In 2023, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance partnered with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to form the Center for Species Survival: Biodiversity Banking.

The Centers for Species Survival program, led by the IUCN’s Species Survival Commission, is an initiative in which IUCN partners with conservation organizations around the world to catalyze conservation action, collaboration, and communication.

As the Center for Species Survival: Biodiversity Banking, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance will be a global leader in cultivating a network of conservation practitioners engaged in biodiversity banking. Our Center is aligned with the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s Animal Biobanking for Conservation Specialist Group, and we share many of the same objectives: working to better integrate biodiversity banking into existing conservation efforts; expanding biodiversity banking capacity worldwide; establishing a culture of transparency and partnership among biobanking institutions; and promoting equitable management of genetic resources that is inclusive of local peoples and indigenous communities.

Partnering to form the only Center for Species Survival dedicated to biodiversity banking is a testament to San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance’s enduring commitment to this work—a commitment that began in 1975 and that today has culminated in the Wildlife Biodiversity Bank as the most extensive resource of its kind in the world. This partnership also acknowledges our leading expertise in wildlife science and conservation.