Pan-Smithsonian Cryo-Initiative

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The Pan-Smithsonian Cryo-Initiative, the Smithsonian network of biodiversity repositories and collections, advances biospecimen research through management of frozen biomaterials and cryo-collections. 

The PSCI creates a communication mechanism among dispersed stakeholders, ensures the frozen collections meet best practices and curatorial standards, and leverages partnerships and resources.


Who We Are

Our Mission

PSCI is a program to collect, manage, and share Smithsonian's frozen biomaterials with excellent standards to better understand and sustain biodiversity.

Our Vision

The Smithsonian Institution is a recognized leader in cryo-banking biomaterials.

PSCI Goals

  1. Excellence in Sample Care, Discoverability, Access, & Use
  2. Strengthen Program Capacity, Integration, & Sustainability
  3. Enhance Smithsonian Scientific Leadership & Recognition

PSCI Objectives

  1. Sustain & Improve Frozen Collections Care & Use
  2. Increase Sample Discoverability & Access
  3. Integrate Program into Smithsonian Infrastructure
  4. Develop & Enhance Program Efficiency
  5. Diversify Funding & Fundraising
  6. Raise Awareness of PSCI
  7. Raise Awareness of Biobanking
  8. Provide Biobanking Scientific Leadership

Pan-Smithsonian Cryo-Initiative
Governance & Personnel

In 2007, the Smithsonian established a Pan-Smithsonian Cryo-Initiative, led by Smithsonian Conservation Biology scientists and supported by OUSS/DUSCIS. Their mandate was to establish a mechanism for effective communication among dispersed stakeholders.

The Pan-Smithsonian Cryo-Initiative Steering Committee includes staff from the National Zoo/Smithsonian Conservation Biology InstituteNational Museum of Natural HistorySmithsonian Tropical Research Institute, and Smithsonian Enviromental Research Center. Together, the program manager, leader, and the Steering Committee develop pan-Institutional policy guidance and coordinate efforts to survey and monitor Smithsonian’s collections, secure resources, and leverage new partnership opportunities. The group also advises on developing standard operating protocols for biospecimen science and access and benefits sharing.

Program Leader
Pierre Comizzoli, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, National Zoological Park
Pierre Comizzoli is a research veterinarian at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Washington D.C. He started his career in French Guyana studying the seasonal reproduction of different mammals. He has worked on the implementation of assisted reproductive techniques and genome resource banking in various deer species at the National Museum of Natural History of Paris. In 2002, Dr. Comizzoli joined the Smithsonian's National Zoological Park in Washington DC as a staff scientist to develop new projects of gamete and gonadal tissue cryo-banking for rare and endangered species (including carnivores, ungulates, and amphibians). Based on fertility preservation studies in various wild and domestic animal species, his research is comparative and creates interesting bridges with human reproductive medicine.

Program Manager
Piper Mullins, Pan-Smithsonian Cryo-Initiative
Piper Mullins serves as the primary contact to guide PSCI program initiatives and strategic planning, and to facilitate a network in support of cryobiology research operations, biomaterial storage, and information systems management. She acts as metadata project manager to write technical specifications and develop a metadata schema for a pan-Smithsonian inventory management system. She holds an M.S. in Information Sciences from the University of Tennessee.

Steering Committee

  • Jennifer Donato, Registrar, National Zoological Park
  • Oris Sanjur, Associate Director for Science Administration, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
  • Katrina Lohan, Research Scientist, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center
  • Carol Butler, Associate Director for Collections, National Museum of Natural History
  • Matt Jenkins, Director, Collections Systems Division, Office of the Chief Information Officer
  • Jane Passman, Senior Facilities Master Planner, Office of Facilities Engineering and Operations

Embedded Staff

  • Maria Fernanda Castillo, PSCI technician, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

Project Sponsors

For inquiries please contact Piper Mullins,

Strategic Roadmap and Annual Reports

To request Strategic Plans and Reports or learn more, please contact Piper Mullins

What We Do

The Pan-Smithsonian Cryo-Initiative serves as advisory body to the Smithsonian leadership on frozen collections stewardship. Together, they are establishing a framework for setting Institutional priorities and defining frozen collections stewardship and data management guidance.

The frozen collections include:

Genome Resource Bank for Global Conservation (National Zoological Park/ Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute) The National Zoo maintains a valuable living repository of specimens from rare and endangered species in the Genome Resource Bank to support efforts in biodiversity and species conservation.

Molecular Evolution Frozen Collections (Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute) STRI's frozen collection holds more than 50,000 samples of tissues and DNA from fish, birds, amphibians, reptiles, sea urchins, shrimps, insects, plants, etc., preserved at -80C.

NMNH Biorepository (National Museum of Natural History) NMNH’s departmental collections (bird, amphibian, fish, mammal, reptile, insect, plant, and ecological samples) are associated with museum vouchers, facilitate research in evolution and systemic, and studies in population genetics.

The PSCI connects the frozen collections facilities across SI. It serves as the point of contact for Smithsonian biospecimen science and provides a forum for frozen collections groups to interact with the Smithsonian’s National Collections Program, Smithsonian offices or departments, and external entities.

NMNH Biorepository (National Museum of Natural History) Bird, amphibian, fish, mammal, reptile, insect, plant, and ecological samples are stored in this MD-based facility, opened in 2011.

SCBI Biorepository (Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute/National Zoo) (planned opening, 2018) SCBI is renovating a building into a biorepository and cryo-preservation laboratory in Front Royal, Va., creating a world-class biodiversity preservation program with cell line capability.

STRI Frozen Collection (Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute) STRI houses their valuable neotropical vertebrate and invertebrate collection at their Naos Island Laboratories.

The long-term storage and preservation of representative environmental, animal, and tissue specimens for deferred analysis and evaluation is a valuable component of real-time monitoring and basic research.

Well-organized cryo-collections enable investigators to extend their research into the past and provide future verification of analytical results. Smithsonian researchers are using frozen and cryo-preservation storage supported by PSCI in many ways.

Genome Resource Banking & Cryopreservation

Butterfly Microbiomes (Owen McMillan)