Moscow State University just received Russia’s largest-ever scientific grant in a bid to create a vertible ‘Noah’s Ark’ containing the DNA of every living and extinct creature on the planet. The concept is similar to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway, however Russia’s DNA ark would become the world’s first database of its kind. The project is set to be completed by 2018 and, according to reports, it will be 430 sq km in size – over 40 times the size of the Svalbard seed vault.
The idea is all the more relevant and pertinent considering how close to extinction several major species are. The Western black rhino has been declared officially extinct, and the Northern white rhino exists in such low numbers that a sustainable population is no longer possible.
In a press release, MSU rector Viktor Sadivnichy said: “I call the project ‘Noah’s Ark.’ It will involve the creation of a depository – a databank for the storing of every living thing on Earth, including not only living, but disappearing and extinct organisms. This is the challenge we have set for ourselves.”
“It will enable us to cryogenically freeze and store various cellular materials, which can then reproduce. It will also contain information systems. Not everything needs to be kept in a petri dish.”
Samples for this massive database will be gathered from numerous sources including the Botanical Garden, the Anthropological Museum, the Zoological Museum and others. All of the university’s departments will be involved in the research and collation of materials, which will commence straight away thanks to the record breaking grant of over 1 billion rubles (US$194 million). “If it’s realized, this will be a leap in Russian history as the first nation to create an actual Noah’s Ark of sorts,” the rector said.