The long-term preservation of representative environmental specimens for deferred analysis and evaluation is not only a valuable component of real-time monitoring and basic research, but it also enables investigators to extend their research into the past and provides for future verification of analytical results. Formal environmental specimen banking is recognized internationally as an integral part of long-term environmental research and monitoring. The establishment of the Marine ESB in association with the HML has resulted in a renewed interest and expansion in specimen banking as part of marine environmental monitoring and health research. This bank is an important resource of research materials that are used to document geographic and temporal trends in "new" pollutants, changes in transport and accumulation of "old" pollutants in the environment that might be related to climate change, and study temporal changes in marine animal health through application of future new analytical and biochemical techniques.
The Marine Environmental Specimen Bank (Marine ESB), established by NIST in 2001 at the Hollings Marine Laboratory (HML) in Charleston, South Carolina, cryogenically banks well-documented environmental specimens collected as part of other agency marine research and monitoring programs. Specimens include marine mammal tissues, mussels and oysters, fish tissues, seabird eggs, and peregrine falcon eggs and feathers. Many of these specimens are being analyzed retrospectively to determine time trends in emerging contaminants of concern in the environment and as part of a multi-agency effort to determine health trends in marine animals.
Additional Technical Details
Other agency programs collaborating with NIST and providing specimens and funding support to the Marine ESB are: the Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Mussel Watch Program of NOAA, the Seabird Tissue Archival and Monitoring Project of the US Fish and Wildlife Service (with supplemental funding from the North Pacific Research Board), and the American Peregrine Falcon Monitoring Plan of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The Marine ESB also maintains specimens collected by past collaborating programs, including the National Status and Trends Program, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) Mussel Watch Program, and the EXXON VALDEZ Damage Assessment Program. The Marine ESB includes carefully designed and published specimen collection and banking protocols, computerized sample tracking (chain-of-custody) systems, maintenance of many forms of data associated with original specimens, and a large investment in a state-of-the art facility and equipment required to store specimens over relatively long periods of time. The bank emphasizes cryogenic storage using ultra-cold (-80 °C) electric freezers and liquid nitrogen vapor (-150 °C) freezers with continuously monitored security systems. Freezers are maintained in an ISO Class 7 clean air laboratory. Specimens selected for analysis are cryogenically homogenized in an adjoining ISO Class 5 clean room and divided into aliquots for analysis and/or continued cryogenic storage.
Marine Environmental Specimen Bank Projects
- National Marine Mammal Tissue Bank (NMMTB)
- Seabird Tissue and Archival Monitoring Project (STAMP)
- Marine Sample Tracking and Analytical Reporting (Marine STAR)
- Biological and Environmental Monitoring and Archival of Sea Turtle Tissues (BEMAST)
- ACES – Archive of Coral Ecosystem Specimens
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- Pugh, R.S.; Becker, P.R.; Porter, B.J.; Ellisor, M.B.; Moors, A.J.; Wise, S.A., Design and Applications of the National Institute of Standards and Technology's (NIST's) Environmental Specimen Banking Programs, Cell Preservation Technology, 6(1):59-72, 2008.
- Vander Pol, S.; Becker, P.R., Monitoring Contaminants in Seabirds: The Importance of Specimen Banking, Marine Ornithology, 35:113-118, 2007.
- Vander Pol, S.S.; Ellisor, M.B.; Pugh, R.S.; Becker, P.R.; Poster, D.L.; Schantz, M.M.; Leigh, S.D.; Wakeford, B.J.; Roseneau, D.G.; Simac, K.S., Development of a Murre (Uria spp.) Egg Control Material, Anal. Bioanal. Chem., 387:2357-2363, 2007.
- Point, D.; Davis, W.C.; Christopher, S.J.; Ellisor, M.B.; Pugh, R.S.; Becker, P.R.; Donard, O.F.X.; Porter, B.J.; Wise, S.A., Development and Application of an Ultratrace Method for Speciation of Organotin Compounds in Cryogenically Archived and Homogenized Biological Materials, Anal. Bioanal. Chem., 387:2343-2355, 2007.
- Becker, P.R.; Gunter, E.W.; Schlüter, C.; Shibata, Y.; Wise, S.A., Environmental Specimen Banking, J. Environ. Monit., 8(8):776-778, 2006.
- Stapleton, H.M.; Dodder, N.G.; Kucklick, J.R.; Reddy, C.M.; Schantz, M.M.; Becker, P.R.; Gulland, F.; Porter, B.J.; Wise, S.A., Determination of HBCD, PBDEs and MeO-BDEs in California Sea Lions (Zalophus californianus) Stranded Between 1993 and 2003, Mar. Poll. Bull., 52(5):522-531, 2006.