Genome Biobank to Revive North American Bison Population

The University of Saskatchewan has been awarded $6.76 million from the Canada Foundation for Innovation to help conserve bison and other threatened animal species and address challenges facing the beef cattle industry, including antimicrobial resistance which poses a global threat to animals and humans.

The wide-ranging research program, made possible through the CFI Innovation Fund, includes working with Indigenous communities to develop the world’s first bison genome biobank at the university’s Livestock and Forage Centre of Excellence (LFCE).

“After the near extinction of bison 100 years ago, Canada has led the way in bison conservation, but due to small genetically isolated herds and disease, bison remain at less than two percent of their historic population. Without conservation efforts, bison as a distinct species would cease to exist,” said team leader Gregg Adams, a specialist in reproductive biology at USask’s Western College of Veterinary Medicine.

Genome biobanks are used to store and redistribute genetic material to preserve genetic diversity. Adams and other researchers will use genomic tools to identify and restore the natural genetic composition and genetic diversity of Canada’s plains bison and wood bison populations, ensuring the species will survive for generations to come.

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