What are Environmental Specimen Banks?
ESBs store many millions of samples in unique frozen archives. Most of the samples are archived at ultra-low temperatures to ensure the chemical and biological integrity of the samples over long time periods. The samples cover various regions of the world, ranging from across Europe, Asia and North America to Australia, the Arctic and the Antarctic. Usually, the samples are accessible to third parties (e.g. universities) for research projects.
What samples are stored in ESBs?
Common samples from coastal and freshwater environments include fish, mussels and bird eggs. The marine environment is represented e.g. by tissue samples of stranded marine mammals. Mosses, lichens and tree specimens are used to document levels and trends in air pollutions. Other terrestrial specimens include soil, earthworms, terrestrial bird eggs and mammals. Some ESBs also sample the human population for e.g. chemical analysis in blood and urine.
What are the ESB samples used for?
The samples are authentic evidence for the biological and chemical state of the environment. The ultra-low storage temperatures provide for the integrity of the sample over very long time periods. With the help of the archived specimens, we can always go back in history and compare what was there before to what we see now. We can also apply new methods, e.g. of analytical chemistry to historical samples and understand environmental and human exposure to chemicals in a better way. Time trend analysis of archived samples can help to identify new contaminants of concern. Finally, we can check the efficacy of chemical regulation and see whether environmental concentrations are decreasing following management measures.