This is the third installment in Fast Forward’s De-extinction & Conservation tech series. For the first article, click HERE, and to read the second article, go HERE.

What happens if we can’t stop the demise of a rising share of Earth’s species? What if, in a worst-case scenario, we actually can’t halt the extinctions? While clearly an extreme case scenario, if the conservation techniques discussed in the previous articles in this series fail, this outcome starts to become worthy of contemplation. Most likely, habitat destruction would be the cause of accelerating extinctions, and with fewer habitable ecosystems, utilizing frozen tissue samples (see second article) to relocate populations to new locales may become one of our only options. This is clearly speculative, but as animals all over the world are losing their homes by the day, it may not be as far off as we hope.

An alternative hope could be rapidly developing technologies such as 3D printing. With a strong library of species DNA, we could potentially “3D-print animals” to populate whatever space we find for them. Problems are many, including technical obstacles as well as the lack of adequate DNA samples to restore balanced ecosystems. That’s where, and I’m surprised I have to say this, the Russians come in.

Russia has granted Moscow State University their second biggest scientific grant ever on a project called “Noah’s Ark”, which is essentially a giant databank consisting of DNA from every single living and near-extinct species. That is a heck of a big job, but apparently the Russians are ready to take it head on. “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,” said MSU rector Viktor Sadivnichy.

This may be what the future of conservation may look like.

The physical building designed to house the DNA library is set to be completed in 2018, with its gigantic size reflecting the magnitude of the task at hand. The university’s incredible task could take decades: there are estimated to be 8.7 million species, with an estimated 86% of land species and 91% of all marine species yet to be discovered.  At the current rate of field taxonomy, we would only have discovered every species on Earth in more than 400 years. So even if the scientists can manage to sample a good majority of the species out there that we have found, they will have a long way to go before taking a full backup of Earth’s genetic data.

This is the third installment in the four-part series on De-Extinction & Conservation tech. Check back here soon for the last article in the series!