Providing innovative solutions for field collections, sample processing, specimen digitization, and archival collections

The Collections Unit is responsible for acquiring samples and specimens from three major sources – CBG field collections, natural history museums, and a network of collaborators that it helps to equip, train and organize. It also digitizes and processes samples and specimens, to prepare them for CBG’s imaging, barcoding and metabarcoding pipelines, then stores these resources in CBG’s extensive natural history collection.

The Unit Manages

Fieldwork & Collecting

Wide and Diverse Reach of Field Collections

Fieldwork is carried out each year to acquire new samples and specimens using a variety of collecting methods specific to ongoing projects. Many projects employ Malaise traps alone, while others supplement them with other trapping and collecting techniques (e.g., pan traps, pitfall traps, sweep netting, kick-net sampling). While the CBG Collections team executes much of this fieldwork, most recently in Ontario, British Columbia, and Arctic Canada, it also helps coordinate and equip similar field programs for many collaborators and partners within Canada and abroad. As a result, the Collections Unit sourced over 18,000 bulk samples or lots in 2022, containing well over two million individual specimens.

Museum & Archive Sampling

Expert Protocols for Natural History Collections

The CBG’s Collection Unit stands at the forefront of the development and implementation of standardized protocols for harvesting expertly identified material from museums, private archives, and other natural history collections. These efficient and effective workflows include both on-site and off-site processing, and involve all stages through specimen selection, labeling, imaging, tissue sampling, databasing, DNA barcoding, data validation and data release. These methods are routinely employed at collections such as the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and openly shared through tutorials, workshops and other resources.

Specimen Digitization & Archive

Globally Unique Natural History Collection

Following digitization and sample preparation, the majority of specimens are permanently vouchered in CBG’s natural history archive (collection code BIOUG). This globally unique collection of 8.6 million animal specimens uses an internal Collections Management Information System and the Barcode of Life Data Systems to associate each record with its sequence data, collection information, and images, facilitating rapid access to both the specimen and its collaterals. The ease of accessibility allows CBG staff to frequently provide loans to researchers around the world (more than 1400 separate loans for taxonomic identification have been dispatched) and host visiting researchers in the dedicated workspace of the collection.

Project Management & Research Support

Facilitating Large-scale Research Programs

In addition to its primary roles, the Collections Unit also manages or supports several large research projects at CBG, including the Global Malaise Trap Program, the Food From Thought Program, LIFEPLAN, Arctic BIOSCAN, NBGMP South Africa, BioAlfa, and the GGI-CBG-Barcoding NMNH Genera Project. Ongoing support for the International Barcode of Life (iBOL) Consortium is provided through coordinating field collections, sampling at natural history collections, and sharing of protocols and training with international collaborators.

Expanding knowledge of life on our planet