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Samples Repository-Collections Management

We provide secure storage, processing, and subsampling services to USGS staff, and researchers from government and academic institutions investigating the history, nature, and physical properties of geological, biological, and geochemical materials collected from coastal, marine, and near-shore environments.

Our Mission Statement

The mission of the Samples Repository is to

  1. serve as the USGS repository for geological, biological, and geochemical samples collected through field research sponsored by the WHCMSC,
  2. provide long-term storage of these samples collected by WHCMSC scientists and affiliated researchers under controlled conditions to ensure optimum preservation, and
  3. maintain an inventory of sample collections stored in the Samples Repository and promote the secondary usage of the sample material in its care by the scientific community.

Responsibility for Sample Storage

Upon collection and return to the WHCMSC, all samples are the responsibility of the collecting scientist in conjunction with the Curator of Geologic Collections, who will ensure appropriate storage and careful maintenance of the samples to guarantee their preservation. Containers for bulk sediments (grabs and subsamples) and small samples, as well as D-tubes for split cores will be provided by the repository for all incoming samples.

The WHCMSC Sample Repository’s primary function is to provide controlled long-term storage under optimum preservation conditions for geological, biological, and geochemical samples collected through field work by researchers or programs funded by USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Program. The Samples Repository will accept samples and cores collected by third parties, providing the materials are supplied in good condition and potentially useful to further scientific investigation, come with appropriate metadata (see Minimum Required Information below), and are formally transferred to the custody of the U.S. Geological Survey through a Memorandum of Understanding or other formal agreement.

A Note about Hazardous Materials: Samples or suites of samples from environmental studies may contain preservatives, such as formalin or sodium azide, or trace amounts of heavy metals that may be harmful to humans, such as mercury. Any samples submitted to the WHCMSC Samples Repository that contain, or may possibly contain, any concentration of toxic preservatives, heavy metal content, asbestos, or radioactivity must be explicitly stated and approved as such up front before the materials are accepted into the Samples Repository. The curator will consult with local safety officers on the appropriateness of retaining these materials on-site, or, if needed, determine if these sample collections would be better kept elsewhere to prevent possible harm through exposure to toxic elements.

For up-to-date trace-concentration limits for toxic metals content, please refer to Code of Federal Regulations 40 CFR §261.24, "Section 261.24 - Toxicity Characteristic".

Minimum Required Information for Acceptance

The policies and procedures for evaluating and accepting samples into the WHCMSC Samples Repository closely follow guidance provided in USGS Survey Manual Instructional Memorandum IM CSS 2019-01: USGS Policy on Scientific Working Collections in addition to the Guide to Planning for and Managing Scientific Working Collections in the U.S. Geological Survey. The “5-Point Standard” of basic information needed to evaluate a sample or sample collections for acceptance into the Samples Repository consists of five necessary components of information each sample must be able to be associated with in order to be considered for addition into the Repository:

  1. A sample name, number, or some other identifier that is unique to that sample in the context of the field activity or grater collection to which it belongs;
  2. Specific location of collection information, preferably as geographic coordinates (however site names and geographic features can be used to approximate collection site locations) in order to graphically define collection origins for the samples curated in the Repository. In the case of samples collected at sea, which most of the materials in the WHCMSC are, water depths recorded at the time of collection are also required;
  3. Any and all available information relating to the Field Activity, cruise, or expedition the sample came from (at the most basic, the Samples Repository requires the name of the collecting scientist);
  4. The date of collection for each sample; and
  5. How the samples were handled from collection to submission to the Samples Repository.

Planning for Sample Collection

In compliance with USGS policy, a Collection Plan must be created as part of all USGS Project Work Plans when study objectives include the collection of materials, samples, or other objects from existing collections or from new research work areas. This Collection Plan will be completed with the assistance of the curator and will be documented and saved locally. This plan will be used to update the Samples Repository holdings recorded in the USGS National Digital Catalog.

Any planned Field Activities which the WHCMSC is participating in that will be collecting samples and bringing them back to the Repository is encouraged to download the template provided here to document these samples as they are collected:

WHSC_Sample_Collection_Template(v2).xlsx – Microsoft Excel Template (51.84 KB)

Right-click the link and select “Save As” to save the template to your computer’s hard drive.

Upon return to Woods Hole, the curator will use this completed datasheet along with the information provided in the Collection Plan to inventory the sample collections and make them available for processing and analysis.

Requesting Sample Material

Making samples and sample collections available for research and reuse, as well as providing for their preservation and security, is the responsibility of the WHCMSC Samples Repository. Our available sample collections can be searched using our Collections Inventory search interface.  Search results are exported as CSV files and come with customized metadata.

Sample request forms, as well as information pertaining to the WHCMSC Samples Repository’s policies on loan requests and data return are available through our Sample Request page.