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Seabird Tissue Archival and Monitoring Project (STAMP)


In 1999, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge (USFWS-AMNWR), the U.S. Geological Survey Biological Resources Division (USGS-BRD), and NIST implemented the Seabird Tissue Archival and Monitoring Project (STAMP) to monitor contaminants in Alaska's marine environments. In 2010, the 111th Congress directed NIST to expand this and other programs into the U.S. Pacific Islands.

STAMP was designed as an ongoing long-term effort to track geographic and temporal trends in environmental quality by collecting seabird eggs using standardized protocols, processing and banking the contents under conditions that ensure chemical stability during long-term (decadal) storage, and analyzing subsamples of the stored material to determine baseline levels of persistent bioaccumulative contaminants (e.g., chlorinated pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls [PCBs], brominated flame retardants [polybrominated diphenyl ethers—PBDEs], butyltin compounds, and mercury). The seabird egg collection is maintained in the NIST Biorepository at the Hollings Marine Laboratory with aliquots available to other researchers through a tissue access policy.  See (attached PDF link) for tissue access requirements and contact NISTBiorepository [at] with any further inquiries.


Seabirds are an important group of upper trophic-level marine organisms with potential for accumulating lipophilic contaminants. Analyses of seabird tissues, particularly eggs, have played important roles in temporal and spatial environmental monitoring of persistent organic pollutants (POPs—e.g., PCBs, chlorinated pesticides) and mercury in Canada and Europe. Through real-time analysis, specimen banking, and future retrospective analysis, the project will provide a means to monitor both legacy environmental contaminants and chemicals of emerging environmental concern and provides the capability to verify analytical results by accessing banked samples and reanalyzing them using more sensitive and accurate methods in the future.

Major Accomplishments

  • Temporal and geographic trends in the level of contaminants in the major marine regions of Alaska, Hawaii and the U.S. Pacific Islands are being established through the analysis of seabird egg specimens banked at the NIST Biorepository.
  • Banked seabird egg specimens are being used in a study to use mercury isotopes coupled with carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes to determine sources and cycling of mercury in the environment and the effects of food webs on this determination.
  • STAMP is internationally recognized as a contributor to the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme and in 2007 was designated as a component of the international AMAP/CAFF Coordinated Monitoring Effort.



NISTBiorepository [at]

Created January 22, 2009, Updated August 3, 2022