Genetic Resources

The Genetic Resource Collection at the Burke Museum is essentially a “library” of biodiversity. The Burke’s GRC and the few others like it are the only places where tissues of a wide variety of animals are being systematically collected and stored in archival conditions for future research: they contain frozen tissues from thousands of species that would otherwise not be available to scientists.

Genetic resources collection manager Sharon Birks removing tissue samples from a -80C ultracold freezer. Photo by Jeff Bradley

The importance of such collections is increasing rapidly as habitats and organisms face destructive pressure in the wild, and as scientists discover the rich array of biological information available from well-preserved tissues. The Burke GRC loans sub-samples of these tissues to researchers for molecular studies, which may involve analysis of DNA, RNA, proteins, or isotopes.
The Burke Museum has been saving tissue specimens from birds and mammals for use in molecular research since the 1980s. This collection is now one of the largest of its type in the world, with tissues from more than 70,000 birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians.