The Marine Environmental Specimen Bank (Marine ESB) was established by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in 2002 at the Hollings Marine Laboratory, Charleston, South Carolina. It is devoted to the cryogenic banking of marine environmental specimens (e.g., fish tissues, mussels, oysters, marine mammal tissues, bird eggs and feathers, sea turtle tissues and eggs, coral tissues and coral ecosystem specimens) as part of ongoing research and monitoring programs conducted in the marine and coastal environment of the USA, including Alaska and the Pacific Islands Region. In addition, the Marine ESB houses all samples (e.g., human livers, marine sediments, fish tissues, mussels, oysters, human diet samples) that were maintained at the former NIST National Biomonitoring Specimen Bank (NBSB) which was established in 1979. The Marine ESB is specifically designed to cryogenically store these environmental specimens over long periods of time (50-100 years). A systematic well-designed specimen bank program is not only a valuable component of realtime monitoring and basic research, but it also enables future investigators to extend their research into the past (hind casting) and provides for future verification of analytical results (quality assurance). The Marine ESB is an important resource of research materials that are used to document geographic and temporal trends in “new” pollutants, changes in transport and accumulation of “old” pollutants in the environment that might be related to climate change, and to study temporal changes in marine animal health through application of future new analytical and biochemical techniques. Additionally, samples are not limited to just pollution research but have also been used to determine cellular and biomolecular measurements, RNA analysis for genetics and evolutionary studies, as well as food web studies through stable isotope and fatty acid analysis.
Standardized protocols are developed by NIST for collecting and archiving tissues and fluids which are designed to: (1) provide sufficient material for multiple analyses, (2) minimize the possibility of sample change and/or loss during storage, (3) minimize inadvertent contamination during sample handling and ensure sample integrity, (4) provide for long-term sample stability through cryogenic techniques, and (5) track and maintain a record of sample history.