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National Museums Scotland Blog #1

By Charlie Howarth

Marine Dogger Bank SACNational Museums Scotland

Survey Collections: sorting and archiving

Last week, my colleague and I went up to the National Museums Scotland Collection Centre in Edinburgh. JNCC gives biological samples from each Marine Protected Area (MPA) survey that we undertake in Scotland to the museum so that they can be held in collections for scientists and others to examine at later dates. As surveys take place every year, the museum holds a large number of samples that need looking after. We were tasked with re-potting a collection from a 2008 survey of Dogger Bank, which is a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and a Marine Protected Area (MPA), located in the North Sea off the coast of Yorkshire. 

Polychaete specimen from the NMS collection, sampled from Dogger Bank in 2008Sponge specimen from the NMS collection, sampled from Dogger Bank in 2008

Photos: Polychaete specimen (left) and sponge specimen (right) from the NMS collection, sampled from Dogger Bank SAC in 2008​.


The samples had all been collected by 0.1 m2 Harmon grab (a mechanical device that takes sediment and animals from the seabed), so all the creatures we were examining had once lived on or in the seabed. There were a lot of worms (polychaetes) that live in the sediment, clams and mussels (molluscs), and crabs (crustaceans), with a few starfish and brittlestars (echinoderms). A lot of the specimens were so small that you could hardly see them. A few were too large to fit in the normal-sized large vials and had to be rehoused in jars.

We had a great time working with these collections, and getting a survey completely properly stored was extraordinarily satisfying.  We would like to thank Sankurie Pye and Fiona Ware and National Museums Scotland for their invaluable help over the week.

More information on the methods we used is available in the Behind the Scenes at the Museum blog.

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