The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) began banking specimens for contaminant trend monitoring in 1979. Based on these initial collections, NIST protocols for collection, processing, and banking were implemented for specimen collection and environmental contaminant analysis. In 2010, NIST consolidated all banking operations to the Marine Environmental Specimen Bank (Marine ESB) at the Hollings Marine Laboratory, Charleston, SC.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA's) Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program established the National Marine Mammal Tissue Bank (NMMTB) in response to a bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) mortality event where a lack of banked specimens left questions concerning unusually high environmental contaminants unanswered. The NMMTB was designed as a resource of tissue samples that could be used for chemical analysis to determine exposure to contaminants and retrospective research on exposure history of populations to emerging contaminants. Maintained by NIST, the NMMTB tissues are collected and banked within the Marine ESB from fresh-stranded marine mammals, animals taken incidentally in commercial fishing operations, and from Native Americans for subsistence. Marine mammal samples collected from Alaska are incorporated into the NMMTB as part of the Alaska Marine Mammal Tissue Archival Project (AMMTAP). Amanda works with sample collection partners and collaborators around the country to collect, process, and archive marine mammal tissues for real-time and retrospective analysis.
In 2002, NIST began collaborating with researchers to assess the health of bottlenose dolphins. These studies involve the capture and release of live animals during which health measurements and samples are collected. Amanda collaborates with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA), the Chicago Zoological Society's Sarasota Dolphin Research Program (SDRP), and other partner agencies to collect, ship, and archive samples from animal health assessments. These health assessments, and specimen banking approach, is being expanded to other marine mammal species in the US, and has been used in studies on dolphins for natural resources damage assessment in response to the Gulf of Mexico Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. The Marine ESB has become a chain-of-custody biorepository for samples collected as a part of the oil spill. More recently, NIST has been working with research partners around the United States to collect, analyze, and archive beluga whale samples from Bristol Bay, AK.
NIST is working with NOAA and its collaborating partners to expand the scope of the specimen bank and develop it as a resource of samples for animal health research. This expansion will emphasize the banking of specimens for wildlife disease studies, exposure to biotoxins, and developing health biomarkers.
In addition to marine mammal specimens, the NIST Marine ESB includes human tissue and blood serum, human food specimens, mussels, oysters, fish tissues, marine sediments, bird eggs and feathers, sea turtle tissues, and corals. The procedures for collecting these specimens can vary depending on a number of factors, such as specimen type, availability of the specimen, and the collection location.
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