For more than 50 years, Smithsonian scientists collected and stored frozen biomaterials (such as DNA, tissues, germplasm) from a vast array of animal and plant species. The Smithsonian has about one million samples from 18,000 species, with thousands of new samples added each year. In the past, the National Zoological Park, the National Museum of Natural History, and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute have managed their cryo-collections independently, with limited storage capacity and no security systems.
The Pan-Smithsonian Cryo-Initiative was launched in 2008 under the auspices of the Office of the Under-Secretary for Science to harmonize the care, management, and use of these priceless collections. The Pan-Smithsonian Cryo-Initiative supports and strengthens the Smithsonian’s mission to create, maintain, and share scientific collections for the diffusion of knowledge, and underpins the grand challenge of understanding and sustaining a biodiverse planet.
As a result of this collaborative effort, the Smithsonian is becoming a resource in non-human bio-collections, a leader in the complex field of cryobiology, and an advisor to those who desire to develop similar sources for biodiversity research.
The original members of the Steering Committee are:
- Pierre Comizzoli, Research Biologist at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, Chair of the Committee and Project Leader
- Laura Morse, Registrar of the National Zoological Park
- Carol Butler, Registrar of the National Museum of Natural History
- Lee Weigt, Director of the Laboratories of Analytical Biology
- Oris Sanjur, Associate Director for Science Administration