Enormous technological advancements in recent decades has meant that molecular genetic methods are gradually becoming a routine tool in zoological research and, as such, the collection of genetic sample material has become part of many wildlife research projects, replacing, to some extent, the collection of whole animal bodies and the creation of taxidermy mounts. Moreover, the importance of preserving biological material has grown as the loss of Earth’s species has accelerated, with such collections not only serving as evidence of (previously) existing biodiversity but also enabling the monitoring of changes in genetic diversity in space and time, thereby helping answer questions on the causes of threats or extinction in specific populations. In this way, genetic collections not only contribute to zoological research but also species conservation. Consequently, in 2015, a Genetic Bank was established at the Institute of Vertebrate Biology (IVB Genetic Bank), along with the National Animal Genetic Bank of the Czech Republic (NAGB), which represents a network of Czech zoological genetic repositories.
The National Animal Genetic Bank (NAGB) is a network of institutions that share an interest in long-term quality preservation of animal genomic samples and the publication of sample data in widely accessible databases in order to increase its availability for further research. The NAGB was established as an initiative of the IVB, which also houses the NAGB Secretariat, and the Department of Zoology, Faculty of Science, at Charles University in Prague. In addition to organisations that operate their own genetic collections, NAGB network members also include organisations that contribute to the preservation of biological material in other ways, e.g. as providers of samples to one of the member collections. In order to increase the quantity and diversity of available material, the NAGB invites other, as yet uninvolved, institutions working with biological material to join the network.
Data on available samples are continuously published in the NAGB database and also on the data portal of the international network of non-human genomic samples the Global Genome Biodiversity Network (GGBN) (Repository IVB). So far (end of 2022), almost 17 000 genomic samples have been published from 18 countries and four continents. A large part of these samples is represented by a collection of small terrestrial mammals from eastern sub-Saharan Africa and a collection of European songbirds. Other more numerous collection represents most of the fish species occurring in Central Europe. The published data also includes African and European bats, small terrestrial mammals from the Balkans, the Middle East and Russia, and individual samples of also other vertebrates from Central Europe. In addition to wildlife, more than 1 800 samples from domestic chicken breeds and captive-bred parrots are also available from the bank. Thousands more samples are still waiting to be processed and published.
In addition to providing access to the sample database, the NAGB website provides a wealth of further information, such as a list of NAGB members and other cooperating organisations, instructions on how to apply for sample loans and how to begin cooperating with the NAGB. Furthermore, the downloads section of the website provides a range of informative documentation (in Czech), including instructions on how to collect genetic samples, a template table for recording required sample data and a copy of the Memorandum of Cooperation between Members of the NAGB Network (signing this memorandum is one way to join the network).
The Genetic Bank of the Institute of Vertebrate Biology (IVB Genetic Bank) focusses on the collection of wild vertebrate samples, with most samples originating from specific research projects, though samples from occasional animal cadavers are also provided by IVB employees or external sample providers, such as animal rescue stations or natural history museums. The oldest samples in the IVB Genetic Bank come from the collections of Prof. Jan Zima, who began collecting in the early 1990s. Genetic Bank samples (typically a piece of tissue in 96% ethanol) are stored in deep freezers (-80 °C) at the Studenec research facility or in the NAGB sample repository at the Mohelský Mill field station. The IVB Genetic bank works in partnership with the IVB Collection of vertebrate voucher specimens and other relevant collections so that it can maintain records on the location of all stored material from a particular individual (e.g. in cases where a genetic sample from an animal used to create a taxidermy mount in a natural history museum is stored in the bank). The IVB Genetic Bank is registered under the Global Registry of Scientific Collections (GRSciColl; code IVB) and is also a member of GGBN.
NAGB was established with financial support from EEA Grants 2009-2014 and the Vysočina Region. Its further operation and activities are supported under Strategy AV21 of the Czech Academy of Sciences and other short-term grants.