Collection Transfer Project

Hydrothermal vent tube worms, Oasisia alvinae, in the Gulf of California.
Hydrothermal vent tube worms, Oasisia alvinae, in the Gulf of California. Image credits: Greg Rouse/Schmidt Ocean Institute.

Incorporation of MBARI and University of Victoria Deep-Sea Animal Collections into SIO-BIC



This project transferred the ownership of two deep-sea animal collections to SIO-BIC. These valuable collections were accumulated over decades by two eminent deep-sea biologists, Verena Tunnicliffe from the University of Victoria and Robert Vrijenhoek from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI). The Tunnicliffe and Vrijenhoek collections have been catalogued into the SIO-BIC online database and made available for loan to the scientific community. The project reinforces SIO-BIC as a hub for eastern Pacific reference collections from reducing deep-sea ecosystems (hydrothermal vents, methane seeps, and whale falls).

The project was supported by the National Science Foundation’s Collections in Support of Biological Research (CSBR) Program, Award #1458145: “CSBR: Ownership Transfer: Incorporation of MBARI and Univ. of Victoria deep-sea animal collections into the Benthic Invertebrate Collection at Scripps Institution of Oceanography,” Principal Investigator: Gregory Rouse.

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About the Collections | Project Goals and Impacts | Search the Collections | Personnel | Project Updates


About the Collections

The Tunnicliffe Collection, largely from hydrothermal vents, holds more than 5,200 lots of formalin- and ethanol-fixed animals collected from the northeast Pacific (Juan de Fuca and Explorer Ridges), the Edison Seamount near Papua New Guinea, and the Mariana Back-Arc of the western Pacific.

The Vrijenhoek Collection, consisting of more than 7,700 lots, contains frozen material at -80 °C as well as formalin- and ethanol-fixed samples, collected from locations including Monterey Bay, eastern Pacific seamounts, the East Pacific Rise, Juan de Fuca and Gorda Ridges, Guaymas Basin, the Fiji and Lau Back-Arc Basins, and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Frozen material from the Vrijenhoek Collection has also been deposited with the Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History.

With Dr. Vrijenhoek now retired and Dr. Tunnicliffe expecting to retire in the near future, their collections have found a permanent home at SIO-BIC. Support from NSF CSBR has been critical for this transfer, as these collections were at risk of being lost without a long-term repository at their home institutions.

These valuable collections, made over decades from remote deep-sea sites that are very difficult and expensive to access, represent a major scientific resource for the deep-sea biology community. This project makes them more easily available for research, education, and outreach worldwide.


Project Goals and Impacts

The Tunnicliffe and Vrijenhoek Collections are a major resource for the study of future change, systematics, population genetics, and ecological assemblages in reducing environments. The collections extend back in time for decades, providing important baseline data to study the biodiversity of these deep, remote, and unique ecosystems.

The goals of this project include:

1) Integrate and catalog the Tunnicliffe and Vrijenhoek Collections into SIO-BIC

2) Database the newly acquired specimens, including images and DNA sequences where available

3) Make these collections available for loan, following current SIO-BIC policy

4) Make the SIO-BIC database, which is currently available online, more widely discoverable through GBIF and iDigBio

SIO-BIC has already accumulated valuable collections representing the eastern Pacific region from many expeditions involving Scripps scientists and students. This project allows SIO-BIC to grow as a central specimen repository of deep-sea research, with a focus on the eastern Pacific. SIO-BIC’s ongoing work in supporting research, education, and outreach will allow the Tunnicliffe and Vrijenhoek material to reach a broad audience and to enhance biodiversity awareness. The enhanced database contributes to the understanding of deep-sea ecosystems and is used as a teaching tool at Scripps and beyond.

Outreach to the general public, including younger generations, has included tours of SIO-BIC, educational booths at special events at Scripps, the collections-themed "Oddities" exhibit at Birch Aquarium (2018-2024), and a professional development workshop for high school teachers on hydrothermal vents and methane seeps, conducted in conjunction with Birch Aquarium (2018).


Search the Collections

Search the collection-specific tags in the SIO-BIC online database:

Material from the Vrijenhoek collection is also available through the Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Invertebrate Zoology Collections.



This collaborative project coordinated scientific guidance, careful planning, and detailed curatorial work across three institutions.


Greg Rouse, Professor and Curator

Charlotte Seid, Collection Manager

Amanda Gannon, Laboratory Assistant (July 2017 – April 2020)

Martin Heithe, Laboratory Assistant (July 2017 – May 2019)

Christine Olds, Undergraduate Laboratory Assistant (April 2017 – June 2018)

Kaila Pearson, Undergraduate Laboratory Assistant (April 2017 – May 2017)

Katelin Pedersen, Undergraduate Laboratory Assistant (July 2017 – June 2018)


University of Victoria

Verena Tunnicliffe, Professor and Collection Curator

Nick Brown, Laboratory Manager

Thomas Giguere, Graduate Student

Jonathan Rose, Laboratory Manager


Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

Robert Vrijenhoek, Senior Adjunct/Evolutionary Biologist and Collection Curator

Kristine Walz, Research Assistant


Project Updates

  • March 2020: Laboratory work is suspended in response to COVID-19. Databasing continues. Taxonomic identifications and data quality control are continually updated.
  • November 2019: Laboratory assistant Amanda Gannon begins subsampling and cataloguing the Vrijenhoek Collection frozen material.
  • September 2019: The SIO-BIC dataset, including all catalogued Tunnicliffe and Vrijenhoek Collection material to date, is published on GBIF: The dataset has also been routed to iDigBio for publication.
  • May 2019: Laboratory assistant Martin Heithe concludes his work on the Vrijenhoek Collection.
  • Spring 2019: Laboratory assistants (recent UCSD graduates) Amanda Gannon and Martin Heithe begin cataloguing of the Vrijenhoek Collection fluid material.
  • March 2019: A feature about the SIO-BIC collection transfer project is published in the March 2019 newsletter of the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections (SPNHC): ​
  • January - March, 2019: The fluid-preserved specimens and -80 °C tissue samples from the Vrijenhoek Collection arrive at SIO-BIC. Cataloging will begin in the upcoming months.
  • Fall - Winter 2018: The MBARI and Smithsonian Institution team continues subsampling frozen material to be deposited at SIO-BIC and the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.
  • September 2018: Laboratory assistants (recent UCSD graduates) Amanda Gannon and Martin Heithe complete the curation of the Tunnicliffe Collection's northeastern Pacific holdings: more than 4,800 lots.
  • August 28, 2018: At the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections (SPNHC) Conference 2018, SIO collection manager Ben Frable presents a talk, "Integration and Curation of At-Risk Collections into the SIO Collections," featuring the SIO-BIC collection transfer project (abstract here).
  • June 2018: UCSD undergraduate student Christine Olds and masters student Katelin Pedersen conclude their work on the Tunnicliffe Collection.
  • June 4-6, 2018: SIO-BIC collection manager Charlotte Seid attends the iDigBio Second Annual Conference on Digital Data in Biodiversity Research.
  • March 20, 2018: The first frozen samples, from seamount animals in the Vrijenhoek Collection, arrive at SIO-BIC for storage at -80 °C.
  • January 2018: The MBARI team begins preparing and subsampling frozen material for shipping to SIO-BIC.
  • November 2017: Facilities improvements are made at SIO-BIC: emergency power is available for freezers, renovations are completed for the freezer storage room, mold remediation is conducted in the library/office room, and ventilation and alarm repairs are completed in the wet laboratory.
  • August 3-4, 2017: Additional material from the Tunnicliffe Collection arrives at SIO-BIC. This material includes samples from the western Pacific: Edison Seamount (near Papua New Guinea), New Hebrides Arc (off Vanuatu), and Tonga-Kermadec Arc (off Tonga).
  • July 10-20, 2017: UCSD undergraduate students Amanda Gannon, Martin Heithe, and Katelin Pedersen (continuing as a masters student) are hired at SIO-BIC to rehouse, relabel, and catalog material from the Tunnicliffe Collection.
  • May 2017: UCSD undergraduate student Kaila Pearson concludes her work on the Tunnicliffe Collection and completes her degree.
  • April 3, 2017: UCSD undergraduate students Christine Olds and Kaila Pearson are hired at SIO-BIC to rehouse, relabel, and catalog material from the Tunnicliffe Collection.
  • February - May 2017: The four Scripps Oceanographic Collections discuss pipelines and details of data-sharing with iDigBio. SIO-BIC provides a preliminary dataset (revisions and further discussions in progress).
  • January 9, 2017: Material from the Tunnicliffe Collection, northeastern Pacific holdings (Juan de Fuca and Explorer Ridges) arrives at SIO-BIC. Collection Manager Charlotte Seid begins employment at SIO-BIC.