In the UK, we spend about £16 million each year on collecting and archiving environmental (e.g. biological and chemical) samples for research. The UK virtual environmental specimen bank aims to maximise the return on this investment by creating a centralised open access catalogue. This catalogue will allow specimen collections to be discoverable and allow exploration of what has been collected. Visitors can view the range of samples available for research along with the standard operating procedures, protocols and best practice employed. By improving access to information on archived specimens, researchers will be able to develop new science and identify trends in emerging environmental pressures and threats.
We surveyed 86 UK-based organisations to find out what samples were collected, how and why they were archived and what type of facility specimens were stored in. We developed the concept and outline functionality of a UK virtual Environmental Specimen Bank (UK-vESB) then built a catalogue and have added initial entries to test the system.
To enable sharing of samples and expertise we have created the UK-vESB to catalogue UK environmental specimens and archives (including tissue and specimen archives, museum collections, science facility collections, etc.). Our aim to enable researchers and specimen holders to share resources and ‘advertise’ holdings, protocols and best practice.