Evolutionary Biology Unit Collections
The Australian Biological Tissue Collection (ABTC) houses over 110,000 tissue samples. The collection encompasses most of the terrestrial vertebrate groups and a broad representation of major fish and invertebrate groups from Australia and surrounding regions.
The Evolutionary Biology Unit (EBU) maintains frozen and alcohol preserved tissues and DNA samples from approximately 110,000 vertebrate and invertebrate specimens. This collection, referred to as the Australian Biological Tissue Collection (ABTC), was the first such frozen tissue collection in any museum in Australia and is one of the largest wildlife tissue collections in the world.
Australian Biological Tissue Collection
The importance of a companion tissue collection complimenting the specimens deposited in traditional museum collections cannot be overstated. Far less than 1% of the natural history information available from a museum specimen can be obtained from an examination of the carcass itself. By contrast, vast amounts of information regarding the natural history of a species and its ancestors resides directly within the animals' genetic blueprint, its DNA. Most research in the areas of systematics, evolution, population biology already uses molecular genetic techniques. They require the availability of vouchered tissue specimens, and with the explosive rate of advancement in this area, this trend can only further increase.
The clientele serviced from the EBU Collection includes EBU staff, other South Australian Museum staff, researchers from other museums both in Australia and overseas, other State and Commonwealth Government institutions, universities and non-government organisations.
Usually the interaction involves a collaborative research effort in which the client contributes material to the collection that is either stored long-term or becomes the subject of an immediate research project. Occasionally frozen material is simply held until the "owner" can make arrangements for its long-term storage or use somewhere else. Increasingly, other researchers request "grants" from the collection for their own independent research.
Access to material from the collection is managed through a grant policy (see attachment below). A fee is charged for "grants" on an individually negotiated basis. The purpose of the fee is to cover the time spent retrieving tissue samples and some component of the infrastructure costs of maintaining the collection (freezer maintenance and replacements). The fee does not make a charge for the value of the material, as this would contravene State and Federal laws prohibiting commercial trade in wildlife species. The fee does not seek to recover any of the costs incurred in collection of the material. Requests for grants of tissues currently average one per week.