The Frozen Ark, a biobanking charity based at the University of Nottingham, has won National Lottery funding to help develop a National Archive for DNA and tissues of native British animals.
The £60,000 Heritage Lottery grant means the Frozen Ark, coordinated from the University’s School of Life Sciences, can begin to enhance biobanking for threatened species that are preserved in museums, zoos, research institutes and universities across the UK.
Indigenous British animals like the hedgehog and the red squirrel will be special subjects of interest because both animals have suffered huge population drops in the past few decades. Scientists and conservationists at Frozen Ark want to preserve their genetic material for the future and give other researchers access to high quality DNA to help devise conservation plans in the future.
With expanding deforestation and industrialisation, the UK is now among the most nature-depleted countries in the world. Today, more than 100 animal species in the UK are threatened. According to the State of Nature 2016 report, the population sizes of the UK’s most endangered species have plummeted by two thirds since 1970 and this is an ever-increasing trend.
The scientific research community needs access to current and historic information and biological material from species in decline in order to understand the consequences of this catastrophic decline. The Frozen Ark aims to ensure that genetic material is made available and used for much-needed conservation and research activity on the UK, and the world’s, endangered species.
Commenting on the new HLF award, Director of the Frozen, Ark Professor Mike Bruford said: “We are delighted that we’ve received this support thanks to National Lottery players. This funding will allow us to grow and develop the UK collection, consolidating this important scientific heritage, but importantly making this material more visible and available to the UK’s research and conservation community.”
Jonathan Platt, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund East Midlands, said: “Native species are a vibrant but sadly threatened part of the UK’s natural heritage. It’s great to be able to support the development of Frozen Ark and help make such important conservation research more accessible, thanks to the generosity of National Lottery players”
An educational outreach programme is also planned, and the project aims to deliver engagement activities, including film screenings, talks and a dedicated UK heritage website page. A curriculum-linked ‘Evolution and Wildlife Inheritance’ class for year 6 students is also planned. A portable display will be developed to take to events to increase awareness of the threats that many of the UK’s iconic animal species face and the reasons behind this.
The Frozen Arkis a charity dedicated to the biobanking of genetic materials such as DNA, sperm and eggs for endangered animal species and populations at a UK and global level. It was founded in 2004 by the University of Nottingham, the Natural History Museum and the Zoological Society of London. Members work to halt the loss of biodiversity, by making sure that all biological material collected from endangered animal species is properly stored, curated, and used responsibly and sustainably in conservation management and research.
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