Cincinnati Zoo Awarded National Leadership Grant for Plant Conservation

Posted September 26, 2012

CINCINNATI – The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is the only Ohio institution to receive a prestigious National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) in 2012. This competitive grant was awarded to the Cincinnati Zoo to support a three-year research study at the Zoo’s Carl H. Lindner Jr. Family Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) that will provide critical information for botanical gardens in the U.S. and worldwide to aid in developing strategies and methods for cryopreservation as a tool for plant conservation. 

Through the grant, CREW’s plant division research team will assess over 980 samples from the frozen garden in CREW’s CryoBioBank, including seeds, spores, pollen, and tissues from 178 species, many among the nation's most endangered, that have been stored up to 24 years in liquid nitrogen. Current viability and genetic integrity will be determined and used to evaluate the effectiveness of the methods used at the time of banking, as well as effects of tissue, age, genotype, species, and storage location.

The Zoo will receive $461,808 in grant award money and the results of the study should provide botanical gardens with a significant leap forward in the body of knowledge from which to draw in order to develop their own strategies for the stewardship of their collections. 

Because the project design includes carefully structured input and evaluation from four of the world’s foremost experts on botanical collections and plant preservation, combined with the recognized innovation and expertise of the Cincinnati Zoo’s Dr. Valerie Pence, the study’s designer and principal investigator at CREW, the results of this research are expected to form the basis for recommendations on the use of cryopreservation that will shape the future development of ex situ plant conservation in botanical gardens in the United States and around the world.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. The Institute works at the national level and in coordination with state and local organizations to sustain heritage, culture, and knowledge; enhance learning and innovation; and support professional development.  The IMLS mission is to create strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas. It is awarded through peer review and requires, at least, a 100 percent match in monetary contribution by the applicant.

The Carl H. Lindner Jr. Family Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) was the first of its kind, state-of-the-art research facility dedicated to saving endangered plants and animals from extinction. CREW maintains one of the oldest, largest, and most diverse cryopreserved collections of wild plant materials in the world as part of the Frozen Garden of its CryoBioBank®. The Cincinnati Zoo contributes to global efforts on plant conservation by propagating and preserving endangered plants and through education and research.  The Cincinnati Zoo is a participating institution in the Center for Plant Conservation as well as a member of Botanic Gardens Conservation International, and it works with these and other partners to address the challenges of conserving the world’s rarest plants. The Cincinnati Zoo also subscribes to the Voluntary Codes of Conduct on invasive species and promotes the use and understanding of native species in its Native Plants Project.

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