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BIOLOGICAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL MONITORING AND ARCHIVAL OF SEA TURTLE TISSUES (BEMAST): Rationale, Protocols, and Initial Collections of Banked Sea Turtle Tissues



Jennifer M. Lynch, Rebecca S. Pugh, Paul R. Becker


The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) expanded its analytical measurement and specimen banking capabilities into the U.S. Pacific Islands region in 2010. As part of this Program, NIST established the Biological and Environmental Monitoring and Archival of Sea Turtle Tissues (BEMAST) project in 2011 to archive tissues from sea turtles primarily for health and contaminant studies. This report describes the scientific rationale behind BEMAST and detailed protocols for sample collection and processing during sea turtle live captures, necropsies, and nest excavations as well as protocols for sampling ingested plastics, homogenizing scutes, and cataloging tissues. Additionally, this report summarizes the collection of samples archived by BEMAST and already analyzed for certain laboratory studies. Today the collection includes 854 tissue samples from 288 individual sea turtles and 38 sea turtle nests. All five species inhabiting the U.S. Pacific Island region are included, and locations encompass the Hawaiian Islands, Palmyra Atoll, Saipan, Tinian, San Diego Bay, and pelagic waters of the tropical Pacific Ocean. Tissues include blood, scute, muscle, liver, fat, fibropapilloma lesions, bile, follicles, ingested plastics, eggs, and mouth algae and are stored at -150° C at the NIST Marine Environmental Specimen Bank at the Hollings Marine Laboratory in Charleston, South Carolina. Analysis of subsamples has begun primarily for green sea turtles, including contaminant concentration measurements, as well as metabolomics, lipidomics, and proteomics. Collections and analyses continue with expansion into additional Pacific Islands and focus on more endangered species, such as leatherback and hawksbill sea turtles.
NIST Interagency/Internal Report (NISTIR) - 7996
Report Number


Specimen banking, environmental contaminants, analytical chemistry, sea turtle, marine turtle, marine organism health, reptile, pollution, Pacific Islands


Lynch, J. , Pugh, R. and Becker, P. (2014), BIOLOGICAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL MONITORING AND ARCHIVAL OF SEA TURTLE TISSUES (BEMAST): Rationale, Protocols, and Initial Collections of Banked Sea Turtle Tissues, NIST Interagency/Internal Report (NISTIR), National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD, [online], (Accessed May 21, 2024)


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Created April 25, 2014, Updated January 27, 2020