USGS Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center Samples Repository

Science Center Objects

Since 2002, the Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center’s Samples Repository (WHCMSC) has been supporting research by providing secure storage for geological, biological, and geochemical samples; maintaining organization and an active inventory of these sample collections; as well as by providing access to these collections for study and reuse.

Over the years, local storage facilities have changed, and collections management strategies have been adapted as collections have grown and research programs and focuses have shifted. Throughout these advances, the WHCMSC Samples Repository has remained committed to the preservation and organization of scientific samples and collections.

Aerial view of Quissett Campus, Woods Hole, MA

Aerial photograph of the Quissett Campus in Woods Hole, Massachsetts

Located on picturesque Cape Cod, the USGS Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center (WHCMSC) has been a member of the prestigious Woods Hole scientific community since the Center’s founding in 1962. From the very start, samples collected by USGS research in Woods Hole have provided invaluable insight into the nature and character of the sea floor—a region which remains to this day one of the least explored places on the Earth. Often, these samples are unique and irreplaceable, either due to the great difficuty and expense in their collection, or the changing nature of the ocean floor that make duplicating the sample impossible.

As an investment in preserving these samples for further investigations, and ensuring that the scientific legacy of USGS research will not be lost, the USGS Branch of Atlantic Marine Geology (as the WHCMSC was once known) established an agreement with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) to collocate collections of USGS marine core, dredge and surface sediment sample collections within WHOI’s Core Lab repository.

D-tubes containing split cores, as well as subsamples of dredges and sediment grabs collected by USGS researchers are still housed in the WHOI repository and the cooperative agreement between the two institutions is still strong. In addition to the protected storage provided by WHOI, the WHCMSC acquired a number of outdoor climate-controlled vans to store subsamples, split and whole cores, and smaller sample collections in refrigerated, freezing, and ambient temperatures, as recommended by their purpose for research and preservation needs. These outdoor vans became collectively known as the “Freezer Farm,” and it was from this collection of units that the need to create and maintain order within the samples and storage administered by the USGS came. 

The Samples Repository was officially formed in 2002 to formally catalog and organize these geologic, geochemical, and biological collections, and establish protocols for their preservation and access. Since its inception, the Repository has seen developments in collections management strategies, as well as the construction of the current storage facility, the K.O. Emery Geotechnical Wing.

Closeup of core labels

Close up look at split cores in D-tubes in the K.O. Emery Geotechnical Wing walk-in refrigeratorClose up look at split cores in D-tubes in the K.O. Emery Geotechnical Wing walk-in refrigerator.