The Museum of Nature has opened a special deep freeze — the first of its kind in Canada — to preserve the DNA of animals and plants.
The new National Biodiversity Cryobank of Canada is now the country's central repository for tissue and DNA samples, and will help support biodiversity projects in Canada and around the world.
The six storage cylinders are about 1.2 metres wide and 1.7 metres high — kind of like "overgrown Instant Pots," according to Roger Bull, the cryobank's head of operations.
Inside them, liquid nitrogen keeps the temperature at about –170 C, or about as cold as the dark side of the moon.
"At this temperature, molecules in the tissue samples we'll be storing are super well preserved. All molecular movement is slowed right down, so DNA ... will be preserved in perpetuity," Bull told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning.
"If we know that a species is at risk, we can use these samples to analyze its DNA."
Inside one of the cylinders are 7,000 tissue samples of vertebrates submitted by Parks Canada, including grizzly bears and Blanding's turtles.
If you want to have a look at the cryobank in person, an open house is being held Saturday, Oct. 13 inside the museum's collections facility at 1740 chemin Pink in Gatineau.