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DNA And “Life On Ice” | National Geographic

museums are really the archives of scientific knowledge we think that the future of meeting the needs of 21st century biology will be about frozen tissues life on ice the smithsonian has just built the largest natural history biorepository in the world biologists are going to be spending a lot of the next few decades sequencing the genomes of many kinds of life on earth we’re in the field out at edgewater maryland which is the smithsonian environmental research center and we’re here to start working out the methods for how you put life on ice you might ask so why do we do this well as a scientist the main reason is that i want to understand the history and the diversity of life on earth for 300 years we’ve been studying the morphology of animals the behavior of animals the ecology of animals what we’ve discovered in the last 20 is that all of those things leave signals in their genomes so there are a couple of really hard problems we haven’t been able to solve with classical data and we think that genomic data is is the way to solve all those problems got him see and he’s in there ass looks like a lucow lucowgay yeah that’s one we’ll be catching spiders live and then plunging them directly into liquid nitrogen which by the way is a very fast and painless way to go it’s instantaneous ready so this is sacrificing the spiders you hear that boiling away why care about spider genomes it’s two obvious reasons are silk and poison they have some of the most elaborate and precise poisons of any organism on earth they’re widely used in in neurobiology research so they can see the mechanism of how the poison affects cells and say in a human body so we think nature is a library of solutions that are waiting to be discovered museums are repositories of all sorts of information that people have used in the past and haven’t used yet so we’re adding to it to a museum collection in a different way and has been traditional and basically you know museums will have specimens in ethanol they’ll have specimens that are dried and pinned they’ll have specimens that are in drawers and they’ll have specimens that are in the biorepository and liquid nitrogen so to me it seems a normal thing for museum to be doing which is to be adding to its collection the liquid nitrogen tanks hold tens of thousands of samples at minus 190 at the moment liquid nitrogen is the gold standard for long-term and by long term the smithsonian’s in the forever business now we’re starting to centralize our frozen tissue collections so we’re somewhere between 200 000 and a half a million samples the reason we do this is people like to do genomic work they do biogenetics they do toxicology work with our samples so researchers request samples and we actually go in and we pull samples out we cut a small piece of it and send them out to the researchers every time science jumps to a new phase the museums will follow because technology of doing genome sequencing is advancing rapidly by building a library of frozen tissues where you can do genomics of life on earth we’ll be doing what museums is all we have always done which is to concentrate life into a collection that will support research you
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