The cryobank’s freezers each contain a tank of liquid nitrogen and a heat exchanger that continually recondenses the gas. The cryobank could lose power for nine days and the freezers would still remain cold enough to preserve the tissue samples inside. (Photo: Alexandra Pope/Canadian Geographic)
The cryobank’s current capacity is 200,000 samples, but more freezers will be added to the existing space as the collection expands. To that end, Bull has started visiting Canadian institutions and speaking at conferences, encouraging researchers to deposit their collections in the cryobank.
With global biodiversity increasingly threatened by climate change and other human activity, Bull says it’s especially important to preserve these “instructions for life” in a permanent way, but he cautions against viewing the cryobank as a doomsday vault.
“I think that’s taking a pessimistic view of the possibilities of this place,” he says, adding that while de-extinction of a species is theoretically possible, it would be both difficult and expensive, and raises serious ethical questions. “It’s better to conserve what we have before it disappears.”
Watch: Roger Bull explains what a cryobank is for