Sampling the Cincinnati Zoo's frozen garden

Oct 15, 2012

The Cincinnati Zoo will begin a massive project later this year. It plans to assess the health of all of its rare plant species stored in liquid nitrogen.

The nearly 1,000 seeds, spores, pollen and tissues in the Zoo's CryoBioBank are stored at minus 320 degrees. Some of these species have been in the liquid nitrogen for as long as 25 years. Dr. Valerie Pence, Director of Plant Research at the Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife, or CREW, put them there. She says it's important to have a back-up if a species ever goes extinct. The samples, with tissues as small as 1 millimeter, come from all over the world. Some are local.

"Solidago Shortii, or Short's goldenrod, which is found in one area just west of Maysville, down at Blue Lick's Battlefield State Park area. and it was only known from that area until two years ago when one other population was found in Southern Indiana."

To determine the health of the samples a researcher will plant the seeds in soil or germinate them in petri dishes. For tissues, a series of hormones and gel may stimulate the plant shoots to grow.

The three year grant to assess the samples is from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.