The Smithsonian & SVF Biodiversity Preservation Project aims to preserve and study the frozen germplasm (embryos, semen and other biomaterials) of rare and endangered heritage breeds of cattle, pigs, goats and sheep. Heritage breeds often carry genes with good traits: they are resistant to certain diseases and parasites; they are tolerant of heat; the mothers are able to care for their calves; and they are able to efficiently use their grazing areas.
Although SCBI has preserved the genetic materials of corals, giant pandas, and other wild animals, this is the first domestic livestock samples represented in the biorepository. Protecting the genetics and traits of breeds will help ensure genetic diversity, which could protect the global food chain. The project was launched in July 2014 by SVF Foundation founder Mrs. Dorrance H. Hamilton and former Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution Wayne Clough.