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U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2006-1187

Archival Policies and Collections Database for the Woods Hole Science Center's Marine Sediment Samples


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Sample Storage

The Facilities

The sample storage facility consists of two refrigerated vans (RE), each maintaining a temperature of +2º Celsius, one freezer van (FR) which maintains a temperature of -18º Celsius, and one ambient temperature laboratory van (LV) to house all dried samples*. These vans located adjacent to the USGS WHSC buildings are designed to exclude the external environment, as fluctuations in air temperature and humidity can degrade the viability of the samples for geochemical and geophysical properties research, as well as promote organic growth (Bachmann and Rushfield, 1992). The vans in the Freezer Farm have been designated RE01, RE02, FR01 and LV01, respectively. Samples stored at the WHSC's Marine Operations Facility are designated MOF.

Storage Concerns

Shelving unit with sample crate on shelf 03.
Example of shelving unit in the WHSC's Sample Archive. Numbered shelves begin from the bottom up.

Next to the main entrance within each van is a schematic map designating storage sections into which the van has been divided (01 through however many units are present). These sections contain shelving units, four shelves high (01 through 04, starting from the bottom upward).

These identifiers are combined to form a storage identification number, locally referred to as the Bucky Decimal System. An example is as follows:

Storage Identification Number

This number identifies the location of the sample to reside in refrigerated van number 01, section 02 of that van, and shelf number 03 within section 02.

Samples are stored in durable plastic milk crates and are labeled with an identification tag denoting the samples contained therein as well as collection information and a storage identification number. These labels are placed in protective plastic sleeves that are attached to each milk crate.

Conditions of Storage

Overcrowding is a major concern in any archive, especially if both space and budgets are tight. It is the job of any curator to maintain order and ease of access in their archives. Part of accomplishing this task in a limited scientific storage facility involves prioritizing samples according to date collected and relevance to further research. To avoid consuming needed room occupied by samples that have outlived their immediate scientific usefulness and to maintain ample space for incoming samples, it is necessary to create and implement a ”rotating stock“ policy.

Samples will be assigned a finite shelf life, one that gives ample time to conduct all pertinent analyses but also limits the amount of time in which the samples occupy storage space, thereby ensuring room for newly acquired samples. If the samples are deemed viable and in good condition, they will be transported to the USGS Marine Operations Facility (MOF) for long-term storage.

Storage Duration

Since the average length for a typical project is approximately five years, it is necessary that sediment samples be retained at the WHSC for a minimum of five years.

It is also the duty of the USGS to make data and samples available to the public for research. It would be appropriate to announce publicly that a project has been completed and these samples are available for study to interested parties. Methods of announcing available samples will be through data releases, announcements on the WHSC's Web site and through emails to USGS researchers and other institutions such as, but not limited to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP), and WHOI. This five year period will then be extended by an additional two years to accommodate outside parties wishing to access them.

One-year extensions to the retention period may be applied for with descriptive reasons for keeping samples longer. The curator and a collections committee will then review this extension application.

These extensions may be applied for up to three times, thereby giving any sample a maximum shelf life of ten years. After that time period, mandatory deaccessioning procedures will occur.

*At the time of publication, the Freezer Farm was moved to a temporary location adjacent to the WHOI McLean Core Storage Facility to facilitate construction of an addition to the USGS Gosnold Laboratory. The above link provides a map of the current/ temporary van locations.

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