Marine Collections Program

CRRF Marine Collections Program for the US National Cancer Institute (NCI).

From 1992 – 2014 CRRF was under contract to NCI to collect marine invertebrates and plants worldwide for NCI’s Natural Products Branch looking for cancer drugs from the sea. Specimens were collected from over 30 different countries, islands or US states and were frozen for chemistry, while CRRF held preserved reference specimens for identification and archiving. NCI supported taxonomic identification of specimens, and the collection is particularly rich in the taxonomically difficult groups such as sponges, sea squirts, soft corals, and bryozoans. These collections have resulted in a wealth of new species descriptions, biogeographic information and insights into marine ecology. Over 100 new species have been described, with a multitude of yet undescribed species. CRRF’s online biodiversity database now allows public access to the extent and diversity of these museum collections. Dr. David Newman served as the NCI ‘Project Officer’ for 22 years and his unlimited support, interest and vision in areas outside of chemistry broadened the reach of this important work, allowing for significant contributions to marine biodiversity. CRRF worked with over 40 different expert taxonomists from around the world, specialists at identifying a specific group of marine invertebrate or algae. Identifying taxonomists are listed in the online database.

CRRF’s NCI contracts were run by Pat Colin and Lori Bell Colin for 22 years. Numerous other people either worked directly on the project, or contributed on a consulting basis, to provide quality samples to NCI for chemistry and contribute to CRRF’s large biodiversity database. Notable are CRRF’s current employees, some dating back to the contract’s inception.

Starting in 2002 through the end of the NCI contract, CRRF worked with several subcontractors to expand the geographic range of collections. Unfortunately, the CRRF fire destroyed many of these subcontracted reference specimens held in Palau, but they are available from other institutions. Dr. Belinda Alvarez, also one of CRRF’s primary sponge taxonomists, ran the NCI marine collections in the Northern Territory of Australia, through the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (MAGNT) with their reference specimens held at MAGNT. Don DeMaria, owner of Sea Samples in the Florida Keys, USA, participated on numerous NCI collection trips with CRRF and also ran his own NCI collections subcontract, collecting most specimens in the southeast US. These reference specimens are held at the Florida Museum of Natural History. Dr. Nick Pilcher ran the third NCI subcontract in Sabah, Malaysia, through the Marine Research Foundation, which also holds the corresponding reference specimens. A complete set of reference specimens from the 22 years of collections is also held at the Smithsonian Institution, however these are held separate from the accessioned collection and require special permission to access.

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