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© Jan Koschorreck

Each environmental specimen bank holds its archive where the samples are safely stored for future investigations. The individual programmes can be quite different. Follow the links below and find out more about specimen banks around the globe.

The idea of environmental specimen banking evolved in the second half of the twentieth century. The oldest ESB was established more than 50 years ago in Sweden. Today, the number of environmental specimen banks has grown to almost 30 and they are established around the globe. Each of these banks has its own sophisticated and well-defined protocols to ensure specimen integrity. Most of the ESBs also run their own website with valuable data and information on the individual programmes.

Table of Contents



  • The Japanese Environmental Specimen Time Capsule Programme of the National Institute of Environmental Science (NIES) in Tsukuba (Ibaraki) was established in 1980. Nest to opportunistic samples of e.g. endangered birds, the Time Capsule Programme regularly samples bivalves, fish and sediments from the coastlines and from background areas. In 2005 Japanese Environmental Specimen Bank for Global Monitoring (es-BANK) became operational at the Center for Marine Environmental Studies at the Ehime University, Matsuyama. In contrast to the Time Capsule Program, the es-Bank archives opportunistic samples of a wide range of species from terrestrial, freshwater, marine and coastal ecosystems from all over the world.
  • South Korea also maintains two specimen banks with different focuses. The Korean National Environmental Specimen Bank routinely collects animals and plants from freshwater, coastal and terrestrial ecosystems in South Korea (e.g. bird eggs, fish, bivalves, shoots and leaves of trees) and also includes also human samples (serum). It was established in 2010 at the National Institute of Environmental Sciences (NIER) in Seoul. Since 2012, the Library for Marine Samples is operated by the Korean Institute of Ocean Science and Technology (KIOST). Its emphasis is on marine sediment, organisms, rocks, minerals and fossils from seas around the world. 
  • The Chinese Yangtze Environmental Specimen Bank is located at the Tongji University in Shanghai. It became operational in 2014. The programme focuses primarily on long-term environmental monitoring in the Yangtze River Delta and collected representative environmental and human specimens in the Yangtze River Basin and the Yangtze River Delta.


  • The Australian Environmental Specimen Bank was set up by the National Research Centre for Environmental Toxicology (ENTOX) at the University of Queensland around 2011. Some samples, however, date back to the early 2000s. It routinely collects human samples (blood, urine) and animal specimens from limnetic, marine, coastal and terrestrial ecosystems in the North-Eastern part of Australia. The archive also includes opportunistic samples (e.g. carcasses).


  • In Scandinavia, Denmark (Greenland), Finland, Norway, Sweden and the Faroe Islands maintain specimen banks. The oldest European ESB is the Swedish Environmental Specimen Bank located at the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm. Some samples date back to the mid-1960s. Since 1980, the ESB prepares and stores all samples that are collected annually in the Swedish contaminant programme in marine, coastal, freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems (e.g. fish, mussels, bird and bird eggs, tissues of terrestrial mammals). The programme also includes opportunistic samples from rare and threatened species.
  • Denmark and Greenland operate the Artic Environmental Specimen Bank (AMAP Database) since 1985. Its focus is on opportunistic samples of animals and plants from marine, freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems in the Arctic.
  • The Environmental Specimen Bank at the Finish Natural Resources Institute (Luke) was originally launched at Finnish Forest Research Institute (METLA) in 1994. In regular intervals, it samples moss, lichen and materials of other plant species from forest ecosystems in Finland. By the end of 2021, samples from the Finish ESB will be moved to a new Biobank in Jokioinen, southern Finland.
  • In Norway, the Norwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA) operates the Norwegian Environmental Specimen Bank (Miljøprøvebanken). Since 2012, the programme routinely collects mud and air, plants (moss), and animals (e.g. mussels, fish, bird eggs and feathers, and marine and terrestrial mammals) from across Norway and the Arctic  
  • In the UK, two specimen banks are currently operated by the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (UKCEH). The British National Fish Tissue Archive is located in Wallingford/Oxfordshire and focuses on fish from English rivers. Annual sampling began in 2007. The Predatory Bird Monitoring Scheme (PBMS) is operated by the CEH in Lancaster. The PBMS is a national monitoring programme designed to quantify contaminants in the tissue and eggs of predatory birds. Archived samples date back to the late 1960s. The programme relies on opportunistic samples from all areas of the UK.
  • The German Environmental Specimen Bank was established in 1985 and is operated by the Federal Environment Agency in collaboration with Fraunhofer IME, University of Trier, and Fraunhofer IBMT. The German ESB collects annual samples of plants and animals from coastal ecosystems in the North and Baltic Seas as well as from limnic and terrestrial ecosystems all over Germany (e.g. algae, shoots and leaves of trees, fish, bivalves, bird eggs, earthworm, and deer). The programme also includes abiotic samples (suspended particulate matter, soil) and samples of human body fluids (blood, urine) and hair. 
  • France runs the specimen banks Mytilothèque and Ecothèque. The Mytilothèque was established in 1980 and is operated in Nantes by Réseau d'Observation de la Contamination CHimique (ROCCH) of the French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea (IFREMER). It routinely samples molluscs each year on 150 sampling locations from 1981 and sediments every 10 to 6 years from about 400 sampling locations. In 2013, the French National Radioactive Waste Management Agency (ANDRA) launched the environmental archive Écothèque in Bure (Meuse). The Ecothèque archives a wide variety of environmental samples taken in the area of a future deep geological storage site for radioactive waste in Meuse/Haute-Marne. The aim is to provide an environmental memory of the site as a baseline for future studies.
  • Italy maintains specimen banks at the universities of Padova and Genova. The Mediterranean Marine Mammals Tissue Bank (MMMTB) is located at the University of Padova and archives opportunistic samples of marine mammals from the Mediterranean Sea. It became operational in 2002. Since 1994, the University of Genova operates the Antarctic Environmental Specimen Bank (BCAA), which collects annual abiotic and biotic samples from marine, freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems in Antarctica (e.g. water, snow, soil, sediment, SPM, atmospheric particulate matter, mosses, algae, fish, molluscs and sponges). 
  • The Spanish Biscay Bay Environmental Biospecimen Bank (BBEBB) is established at the Research Centra for Experimental Marine Biology and Biotechnology of the University of the Basque County in Plentzia. Its primary focus is on the biological effects of pollutants in coastal, estuarine and marine ecosystems in Spain. Regular sampling of mussels started in 2007, fish are samples since 2010.

North America

  • Environment Canada maintains two specimen banks, one for aquatic animals and one for terrestrial wildlife. The Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) collects biological samples from a number of lakes and rivers across Canada in support of federally mandated programs. ECCC has collected fish and invertebrates from the Great Lakes since 1977 in support of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA). More recently, samples have been collected nationally to support Canada's Chemicals Management Plan and the Clean Air Regulatory Agenda. ECCC also maintains a specimen bank of frozen tissues which is a requirement of the GLWQA and is an integral part of departmental monitoring and research programs. The National Aquatic Biological Specimen Bank (NABSB) is located in a dedicated facility at the Canada Centre for Inland Waters in Burlington, Ontario. The NABSB holds more than 120,000 samples of fish and invertebrates collected over the last 40+ years of environmental monitoring in Canada. Research conducted using samples from the NABSB has produced more than 70 scientific publications, reports and book chapters. The primary targets for collection are top predator fish species such as lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush), walleye (Sander vitreus), and lake whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis). Forage fish species targeted for collection vary depending on the waterbody. In the Great Lakes, these are typically alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus), rainbow smelt (Osmerus mordax), and slimy sculpin (Cottus cognatus). Plankton (&gt; 153 µm) and two key components of the profundal food web (Mysis relicta and Diporeia hoyi) are also targeted for collection at monitoring sites in the Great Lakes.

  • The National Wildlife Specimen Bank is affiliated with the Ecotoxicology and Wildlife Health Division and was established in the early 1960s- It collects animal samples from terrestrial, coastal and marine ecosystems, e.g. bird eggs and various tissues of birds and mammals and also contains opportunistic samples. The majority of the samples originate from Canada, only about 5% are from other countries (i.e. USA, South America, Northern Europe and Mexico).
  • The U.S. Environmental Specimen Bank Group of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is operated by the Hollings Marine Laboratory in Charleston, South Carolina. In 2001, the Marine Environmental Specimen Bank became part of the U.S. ESB Group. It archives tissue samples from terrestrial, coastal and marine animals, such as marine mammals, sea turtles, fish, bivalves, and birds that have been collected as part of the other research and monitoring programmes. The archive also includes opportunistic samples. The National Marine Mammal Tissue Bank (NMMTB) was established already in 1992 and is now part of the Marine ESB. It is an important component of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries's Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Programme and specifically, archives selected marine mammal tissues.


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