Proposal ID 2015-021
Submitted January 15, 2015
Owner leache
Department Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture
Category Machinery & Research
Funding Status Fully Funded
Metric Score 4.26


  • Name
  • Title
  • Email
  • Phone
  • Mailbox
  • Adam Leache
  • Curator of Genetic Resources & Assistant Professor
  • 543-7622
  • Box 351800
  • Name
  • Title
  • Email
  • Phone
  • Mailbox
  • Hally Swift
  • Director of Finance and Operations
  • 543-8465
  • Box 353010
  • Name
  • Title
  • Email
  • Phone
  • Mailbox
  • Robert Stacey
  • Dean of Arts and Sciences
  • 543-5340
  • Box 353765



Students working in biology wish to obtain equipment, under the machinery and research category, to archive frozen tissue samples from wild animals for DNA sequencing and other types of molecular research on non-model organisms. The tissues and equipment will be available through the Burke Museum’s Genetic Resources Collection (GRC) to all students doing any type of molecular research on wild animals. No comparable collection of tissues exists elsewhere on UW campus; in fact relatively few comparable collections exist in the world. This proposal is for five key pieces of equipment to safeguard the GRC and make it accessible for research, including (1) three new ultracold freezers to replace four aging/failing/less space-efficient older units while taking advantage of updated new refrigerant technology, and (2) two laptops for student volunteers to use while working with the tissue database. The equipment will be housed in the Burke Museum and administered by Dr. Adam Leaché (Curator) and Dr. Sharon Birks (Collections Manager), and will be available for all students throughout the University whose research requires access to frozen tissues from wild animals, and for those students working in the Burke Zoology collections who wish to archive tissues from animal specimens they are preparing.

Category Justification

The equipment in this proposal is intended to a) drive independent research projects for undergraduate and graduate students in the Life Sciences, especially the biological sciences, and b) support a biological collection that provides volunteer and work-study opportunities for students who are seeking hands-on experience working with research collections. Specifically, the new freezers will help ensure the safety of the GRC samples and their continued accessibility to student researchers, while also drastically reducing energy consumption and the environmental impact of the freezers by taking advantage of newly available technology.


The Department of Biology, with which the Burke Museum faculty and collections are affiliated, has the largest undergraduate degree program at the University of Washington. A vital and popular part of the undergraduate learning experience is to volunteer in research laboratories generating publishable data, thus driving novel discoveries at the university while gaining valuable hands-on experience. In conjunction with laboratory work, many students also participate in activities surrounding the Burke Museum’s Vertebrate Zoology research collections. Students help collect animals in the field or salvage them from zoos, wildlife clinics, or government agencies; prepare them as research skins or skeletons in the museum; and archive frozen tissues in the Genetic Resources Collection (GRC) – making the tissues immediately available for research.

The Burke GRC is one of the most heavily used collections of its type in the world: it preserves tissues from thousands of species from around the globe that would otherwise not be available for research. The GRC was started in 1986, and it is now one of the largest of its type in the world (3rd in the world for birds) with tissues from more than 55,000 birds, 9,000 mammals and 1,500 reptiles and amphibians. A large percentage of these samples were added to the collection through the hard work of UW undergraduate and graduate students to facilitate their own independent research projects. To build a similar collection from scratch would take millions of dollars and decades of work, but this endeavor would be no replacement for the historical samples represented in the collection. Thus, the GRC is a priceless and irreplaceable resource that is especially relevant to the UW student community given its strong emphasis on biotechnology and molecular biology.

Tissues are stored in a library-like system of boxes and racks in seven -80°C freezers in the Zoology Division of the Burke. Each freezer is hooked up to a remote alarm system, and an Emergency Protocol is in place for mechanical failures or power outages. There is an emergency phone tree so that all freezer failures are responded to immediately regardless of day or time. The GRC has acute infrastructural needs due to growth, high use, and aging equipment: in the first ten years of staffed operation (1998-2007), the GRC experienced only three freezer failures costing < $500. In contrast, in the seven years since then, we have had 11 failures, 9 in the past two years alone, and which have led to repair bills of nearly $20,000 for 2013-14. We have also experienced instances of two freezers down simultaneously – a crisis situation that puts the collection in immediate danger and can be managed for a short-duration with dry ice and constant monitoring. Of our seven freezers, five are over 10 - 15 years old and have begun to need regular repairs and maintenance as parts wear out, especially given the strain of poor building climate control – something the Burke is working hard to rectify in the long-term with a new building. In this grant, we are seeking funds to replace four of our oldest ultracold freezers (15 years old) with three new units that employ a new, cutting-edge refrigerant technology that drastically reduces power consumption, heat output, and noise, while increasing storage capacity by 50% in the same footprint. Our long-term goal is to migrate the entire collection to this new technology, as our older freezer units fail.

Benefits to Students and the University

The GRC is managed by a faculty curator (A. Leaché) and professional staff collection manager (S. Birks), but much of the day-to-day work of inventorying, organizing, labeling, and sub-sampling tissues for loans is done by student volunteers, who gain valuable work experience that can help launch them into a successful career in the biological sciences. Additionally, hundreds of students have been involved over the years in building the collection and contributing new tissues to it through work in the field and lab, and many students have used it for their own research projects. We loan 1,000-2,000 tissue specimens annually to researchers around the globe, including students at UW. At the UW, 13 faculty labs including >50 students have received ca. 200 loans totaling >5,000 tissues. Tissues are used for molecular studies, which may involve analysis of DNA, RNA, proteins, or isotopes. Research questions focus on evolutionary biology, population genetics, conservation, ecology, archaeology, and medicine. Since 1994, when Burke staff started keeping formal records of loan activity, the GRC has sent out >800 loans totaling > 22,000 tissues – ca. 34% of its collection – a remarkable rate of use. These loans have resulted in nearly 500 peer-reviewed publications that we are aware of.

Departmental Endorsements

Richard Olmstead (Herbarium Curator, Burke Museum; Professor, Department of Biology)
Thanks for pursuing funding for new freezers for storage of biological museum specimen tissues at the Burke. Virtually all of the many current and former undergraduate and graduate students who have been involved with research in my lab, as with yours and others at the museum, rely on properly vouchered and archived tissues as the basis of the molecular data that we use for evolutionary analyses. Preserving biological tissues for future research has become central to the mission of natural history museums around the world and the Burke has been a recognized for leading the way in this regard. These freezers will enable secure storage of the Museum's invaluable tissue collections.

Sharlene Santana (Mammal Curator, Burke Museum; Assistant Professor, Department of Biology)
I enthusiastically support your STF application for purchasing new freezers for the Genetic Resources Collection. The GRC contains a breadth of specimens that are extremely valuable for the scientific community in general, and for UW students in particular. For example, samples from Washington bats deposited at the GRC were recently used by undergraduates in the Genetics and Molecular Ecology class (FISH/BIOL 340) to learn cutting-edge genetic techniques for species identification. It is unsettling that GRC operations could be compromised due malfunctioning of its current freezers. Therefore, a STF grant would have great impact in maintaining this important resource for researchers within and outside UW.

John Klicka (Ornithology Curator, Burke Museum; Professor, Department of Biology)
I heartily endorse Dr. Leache's effort to obtain new freezers for the GRC. The existing equipment is failing and must be replaced. The GRC is a valued global resource. Improvements will not only greatly benefit Faculty and and Students at the UW but also researchers from around the world.

Sam Wasser (Professor, Department of Biology)
I heartily endorse the grant for new freezers at the GRC. As you know, there are several large freezers in our department. However, they are in constant need of repair. This poses a serious problem to all of us working with valuable specimens and DNA material, potentially leading to large scale loss of research dollars used to generate those samples. Funds for new freezers would be very well spent. I sincerely hope this request is successful.

Installation Timeline

July 1, 2015: Disbursement of STF funds.
July 1, 2015: Order all equipment. Upon receipt, equipment will be stored in the Genetic Resources Division of the Burke Museum (PI—Dr. Adam Leaché; Collections Manager – Sharon Birks).
August, 2015: Install new freezers; test freezer capacity; hook up/test alarm system; transfer samples; update Freezer Emergency Protocols to include new freezers and technician contacts.
September, 2015: Collection Manager will host brief user training sessions for existing student volunteers.
October, 2015: Begin training new GRC student volunteers on a rolling basis as needed.
July 1, 2016: Submit annual report to STF.

Resources Provided by Department

The equipment (freezers and laptops) will be housed in laboratory space in the Genetic Resources Collections area of the Burke Museum (PI--Dr. Adam Leaché) and will be directly accessible to students working with the GRC during normal building operating hours, under supervision of the Collections Manager (CM). Many more students will access the equipment indirectly, by adding tissue samples to the collection that are formally accessioned (inventoried and installed) by student volunteers into the GRC, or by requesting tissues for their own research. UW students are given top priority for research access to the GRC, and can contact the CM at any time to request a loan. Undergraduate students working on independent projects will be given full access to loans from the collection under the guidance of senior students, faculty or staff. Tissue loans are usually approved and processed within days for UW users.
The collection holdings are searchable via an online database updated daily:
Our Tissue Policy gives instructions on how to request a loan for research:

All freezers are monitored with a building-wide alarm system in case of mechanical or power failure, and an emergency protocol and phone tree provides detailed instructions and support for any emergency situations. The Burke museum will cover the cost of expendables (vials, boxes, labels) used in tissue curation and loans; management of the collection; and routine upkeep, maintenance, and repair of freezers. Stirling freezers come with two-year “blanket warranties” and seven-year warranties on their engines.

Access Restrictions (if any)

Because of its unique value and curation requirements, direct access to GRC freezers and their samples is restricted to students who have been trained to work in a BSL2 environment and in the protocols associated with maintaining the GRC and loaning out samples. However, indirect access (to add tissues to the collection, or to request loans) – is essentially unlimited. It is available to any student who has an interest in contributing to the Burke Museum’s Zoological Research Collections, or in requesting a loan from the 70K tissues for their own research. The majority of anticipated usage will likely be of interest to students in the Life Sciences, including the Department of Biology, Genome Sciences, Psychology, Epidemiology, Microbiology, and Environmental and Forest Sciences.

The Burke Museum Genetic Resources Collection will take responsibility for maintaining all requested equipment. We expect students to use this equipment directly during their volunteer work experience and indirectly for their own research. The equipment will be advertised on the GRC website and through tours of the Zoology Division by Biology Department classes such as Bio 180; Ornithology; Mammalogy; and Vertebrate Biology.

Student Endorsements

Andrew Annanie (B.S., UW 2012; Biological Science Technician, WDFW)
I received my Bachelors of Science in Biology from the University of Washington in 2012. Following the completion of my undergraduate degree, I was fortunate enough to volunteer in the Genetic Resources Collection at the Burke Museum for about 9 months working with the frozen tissue collection. The skills and knowledge I received during my time working with the collection has proven invaluable in helping me attain multiple positions with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, for whom I have worked for almost two years. In addition to providing me with the opportunity to learn valuable and practical laboratory skills, it also instilled in me an appreciation for the organizational and systematic aspects of biological sampling. Never before had I been given access to, or responsibility for, such a large and diverse collection of biological material. Being afforded the opportunity to organize, catalogue, and disseminate such a collection is a privilege that I cherish and one that has proven enormously helpful for my career. It is a privilege that I think every student and aspiring biologist should have the opportunity to take advantage of. Given that such a substantial and diverse collection as the one possessed by the Burke is such a rare and precious commodity, I think it is well worth preserving, as the educational value it possesses is immeasurable. Having borne witness to several freezer malfunctions during my time at the Burke, I can attest to the necessity of this new equipment in order to ensure the preservation of this valuable resource.

Heidi Rockney (undergraduate researcher, Burke Museum)
I am in complete support of the GRC STF proposal for the Burke Museum of Natural History. I recently graduated from the University of Washington with a General Biology degree and am currently using the resources at the Burke Museum to complete my undergraduate research in conservation genetics and publish a manuscript of my project. My current project involves accessing tissue samples of frogs from Ghana that are stored at the Burke Museum for genetic analysis for DNA barcoding of the many endangered frogs found in Ghana. Having access to these tissue samples is essential for me to complete my project and help me move forward into a PhD program. Without the support of the Burke and its resources, I would have had to rely on other tissue storage facilities, with the high possibility that I could not have been able to obtain the necessary samples I needed, and most likely not in the short amount of time I have to finish the lab work for my project. I strongly urge you to fund the GRC STF in order to help current and future students be successful and have access to the necessary resources through the Burke museum to complete their educational goals.

Gina Rudisill (Undergraduate student & GRC Volunteer)
I am an undergraduate student who has been volunteering in the Burke Museum Genetic Resources Collection for over a year. The Burke is a valuable resource in my learning, expanding my direct experience in the handling and maintenance of extremely important biological tissues. In my preparation of tissue loans, I see first hand the value of the tissue collection in furthering understanding of biodiversity through research done by fellow students at the University of Washington and globally. I fully support new funds for the space saving, energy efficient freezers and additional laptops. In my own experience, new laptops are essential for allowing enough computers for everyone in the lab to work simultaneously. Some days my work in maintaining the collection is done entirely on a laptop. Additionally, the frozen tissue collection is incredibly valuable to all UW students interested in biological studies – providing a genetic archive of a wide range of animal species. The use of these funds will ensure the new freezers allow for a safe collection for current and all future students of the University of Washington as well as other institutions.

Cooper French (PhD Candidate, Biology & Burke Museum)
I am a first-year graduate student studying avian phylogenetics and phylogeography. The Genetic Resource Collection (GRC) is an essential tool in this research, as it provides ready access to a wide range (both geographically and temporally) of high-quality, well-catalogued genetic material. I also have two years of experience volunteering in the GRC: organizing the collection, fulfilling tissue requests, and dealing with freezer emergencies. Ultra-cold freezer storage is an essential part of modern genetic research. As new techniques in molecular phylogenetics become available, access to temporally competent tissue collections becomes critical, as researchers need high quality, well-preserved tissues to get sufficient coverage using modern techniques. For instance, radSEQ requires high-quality genetic material that can only be extracted from fresh or frozen tissue. Having a library of tissue on hand and available to researchers here at University of Washington and at partner institutions is extremely valuable. We expect the tissue collection to be maintained indefinitely in order to provide access to these tissue resources over an increasingly long timeframe. It is important to preserve original samples, rather than DNA or protein extracts, because new methodologies might require novel extraction or analysis of tissue. In this respect the GRC serves as an investment in future research, protecting extant populations from resampling. This new generation of ultra-cold refrigeration technology will allow us to operate the GRC over a very long time period with minimal interruption and upkeep and with less risk of loss of tissue quality. It also provides peace of mind for those of us actively engaged in monitoring the freezers and responding to emergencies.

Caitlin E Jirovsky (Shoreline CC and prospective UW student, GRC volunteer & Burke Museum)
I am a volunteer at the Burke Museum where I work under Dr. Sharon Birks in the museum’s Genetic Resources Collection (GRC). I have been a volunteer at the GRC since September of 2013. I perform a variety of tasks including, labeling frozen tissue samples, inventorying tissue samples that have just been collected, and preparing tissue loans for scientists and students conducting research. While I am not currently a student at the University, I currently attend Shoreline Community College and am applying to the UW for the 2015-2016 school year. I hope to double major in biology and anthropology, and the Burke has offered me numerous opportunities to discover my passion for biology and anthropology. I believe that the Burke Museum’s GRC is an integral part of not only the University, but also the scientific community. The GRC houses many samples that could not be found in any other collection like it in the world. This makes the GRC an indispensable resource for many scientists, and students, researching anything from the shape of a bird’s beak to the location of a specific gene in a specific animal. The tissues that the GRC houses need to be kept at a specific temperature to ensure that the DNA does not get destroyed, and that the tissue does not decompose. This temperature is only reached with ultracold freezers. The freezers that the collection is currently stored in have been a major source of frustration to many people. They are constantly breaking down and in need of repairs. In one freezer, thousands of tissues are stored, and if one freezer stops working, all those tissues need to be relocated. This is especially troublesome because all of the other freezers are also full of samples. These new freezers are an immediate need for the Burke. In addition to the freezers, new laptops are needed for volunteers, like me. When I am inventorying the tissues, I do so on a laptop. I enter information into the laptop, which is then uploaded to a database of tissues. The current laptops are shared between the employees of the GRC, and several other departments. These new laptops will allow us volunteers to always have a reliable laptop to use, to keep the information of the tissues available up to date for the students and scientists who inquire. I am so grateful to know that when I am a student in the biology program at UW, I will have at my disposal, a globally recognized tissue collection available for any research I may need to do. I am so thankful to be a volunteer in the GRC. I have learned so many things, and even some new skills. If the Burke’s GRC department were awarded the funds to purchase the freezers and laptops, many people will be grateful, including me. Thank you!

CJ Battey (PhD candidate, Biology & Burke Museum)
The Burke Museum's tissue collection is a crucial resource for cutting-edge research currently under way in several labs in the department and a major driver of collaboration with national and international colleagues. My own research is based entirely on samples stored in the GRC and on loans provided by other institutions, which are greatly facilitated by reciprocal loans from the GRC. The recent dedication of an entire issue of the journal Science to a series of studies on avian genomics, in which many samples were sequenced from museum tissue collections, highlights the increasing relevance of tissue collections to a broad array of high-profile research. Continued safe storage of the collection via the purchase of modern freezers preserves thousands of hours of field and lab work for future analyses and fulfills a basic part of the University's mission to discover and protect knowledge for future generations.

Dave Slager, (PhD candidate, Biology; Curatorial Assistant/Volunteer, Burke Museum)
The Genetic Resources collection at the Burke Museum is a world class repository of frozen tissues, with great importance not only to ongoing research by UW students and faculty, but to researchers all over the world. Today with the continued explosion of new techniques in DNA technology, this resource is becoming more and more important each year. Having collected some of these samples myself in Mexico and Washington as a UW student, I have a first-hand sense for the amount of work that goes into acquiring frozen tissue samples. The genetic resources collection at the Burke is irreplaceable; modern and reliable freezer systems are badly needed to archive this resource for future generations as well as increase storage capacity. Keeping such a massive collection well-organized is an ongoing task, especially with the Burke's recent acquisition of the huge University of Nevada-Las Vegas tissue collection. Modern portable computers are needed to help students and student volunteers better carry out these activities in work positions that allow keeping samples cold while sorting.

Rebecca Harris (PhD candidate, Biology & Burke Museum)
Advances in sequencing technologies have added tremendously to our understanding of the tree of life. These new discoveries would have been impossible without museum-based genetic resource collections like the Burke. Each tissue collected represents an enormous amount of planning and field-work. The preservation of these invaluable tissues should be of the upmost importance to the University. DNA degrades when subjected to fluctuating temperatures and the GRC has had numerous issues with failing freezers. Sequencing is highly sensitive to DNA quality making this request for freezers urgent. The Burke Museum has one of the largest Genetic Resources Collections in the world and is renowned internationally. I know this first hand, as my knowledge of the Burke’s scientific research collections preceded that of my awareness of UW’s Biology department.

Kevin Epperly (Curatorial Assistant and Preservation Specialist, Burke Museum; Lab Technician, Dept. of Biology)
I fully endorse this STF proposal for 3 new freezers and 2 new laptops for the Genetic Resource Collection held at the Burke Museum. This extensive repository of genetic biodiversity is an amazing resource rivaling many other collections of its kind. Having such a world class resource accessible right here on our campus has allowed our students to seek out and explore lines of research that may not have been otherwise available to them. However, this collection's future is wholly dependent on our our ability to house it. As of now much of it is held in freezers that are at the end of their lives, require regular costly maintenance just to keep running and may soon fail completely. Also, at the present time there are no computational resources dedicated to this collection allowing for hands-on management and student access. I have seen firsthand, as a student and now as an employee, how critical the GRC has been to so many students and their endeavors. Such needs of our student body will surely only increase with time as it has over the last few decades. If fulfilled this proposal will help keep this important resource available to students now and in the future.

Matthew T McElroy (PhD candidate, Biology & the Burke Museum)
I am writing my endorsement of the GRC STF proposal from Puerto Rico, where I am conducting genetic and physiological studies on a radiation of lizards. As a graduate student, I greatly depend on the Burke Museum staff and resources for the success of my dissertation research. I work on Anolis lizards in Puerto Rico; there are many Anolis-centric labs at other universities, but at UW I work fairly independently. The Burke Resources and freezers enable me to conduct my research independently while using my own samples that I have collected and stored at the Burke. Without these resources I would be dependent on the collections at other universities, which would have a huge impact on my research. For instance, I would have to ask permission for tissue loans. At worst, these tissue loans can be denied because someone else is using the tissues for resources, and at best, they represent a logistic hurdle for my research. Because I have access to the Burke Museum GRC I have been able to collect and analyze specimens from novel locations and have easy access to the resources that I have collected. I encourage you to fund the GRC STF because it is imperative for graduate students conducting independent research.

Andreas Chavez (former PhD student, Biology & Burke Museum)
Laboratory methods using genomic resources are a rapidly growing field of biological research. The Burke Museum contains thousands of frozen tissue samples, many of which are unique to the Burke collections and represent a valuable resource for the scientific community, especially future UW researchers. My PhD dissertation would not have been possible if the Burke Museum did not have the proper capability to store frozen tissues. The Burke Museum freezers have served their role, but are getting old and are not very energy efficient. I would like to endorse the acquisition of several newer freezers so that these frozen tissues will serve the scientific community in perpetuity. Furthermore, I would also like to endorse the acquisition of new laptops for student volunteers and researchers to use in the lab, field, and for data processing. Burke Museum researchers are also collecting massive amounts of genomic data that require sophisticated computer processors. It is vital that UW graduates students have access to high-powered computers to analyze their data. The costs of high-powered computer can be prohibitive to individual students and so shared high-powered computers at the Burke Museum would be a valuable resource for a multitude of students. Thank you for your consideration on granting this equipment to the Burke Museum.

Jared Grummer (PhD candidate, Biology & Burke Museum)
I am a fourth year PhD student, jointly doing my research between the University of Washington Biology Department and the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture. During my time as a PhD student, I have performed genetics-based fieldwork in a variety of places, and all of our tissues end up at the Burke Museum for long-term storage. Because of many others like me that have been based at the University of Washington and Burke Museum, the Burke is well known as an international repository for tissues that any researcher has access to. Maintaining such a facility requires having reliable and up-to-date equipment. The Genetic Resource Collection (GRC) at the Burke is not only important to scientists worldwide, but to me personally. I work on population genetics and systematics of South American lizards, and I utilize next-generation sequencing technologies to address my research questions. Utilizing these technologies requires starting with high quality tissue, and quality is a large function of how the tissue is stored. When I walk through the GRC, the first two things I acknowledge are the noise and heat emanating from the freezers. Both of these are signs of the degrading quality and long life of these freezers. As a researcher reliant on tissues, I cannot stress enough how (in)valuable these tissues are, how irreplaceable they are, and therefore, how important their proper storage is. As an example, the power went out on the UW campus over a year ago, and everyone with frozen tissue immediately became stressed. The most important question became “When will the dry ice be arriving?!” Thankfully, the power turned on after a couple hours off, and the tissues only increased to ~-60 degrees C. This story is meant to illustrate how important reliable freezers are to me and other genetics-based researchers.

Itzue Caviedes Solis, (PhD candidate, Biology & Burke Museum)
I started my academic career nine years ago as a volunteer in the herpetology collection at UNAM, Mexico. The curator taught me how to obtain and preserve tissues correctly. During my undergrad I contributed to the tissue collection by sampling every specimen collected in the field. However, it was not until my Master’s Degree when I started to use Genetic Resources that I learned about all the information that can be obtained and all the evolutionary questions that can be answered from a piece of tissue, and how hard it could be obtain sequences if the tissue quality is low because they were preserved in bad conditions. As a grad student at the Burke Museum, I am contributing to the GRC with tissues from Mexico corresponding to the field trips of my herpetology project. I am also a volunteer prepping mammals and skinning birds, because I consider participation in different disciplines extremely important and I am aware of the broad impact helping all the people doing research around the world that could potentially use the Burke Genetic Resources. Nowadays, next generation sequencing methods are broadly implemented in all kind of studies, and they need even better quality of DNA. Technology is an important part of preserving and maintaining collections; therefore, is highly important to be able to rely on the equipment and tools, such as modern, efficient freezers, that allow us to do a good job. After all - the goal of collections is to provide as much information about specimens as we can. Thanks for your consideration of our request.

Sima Bouzid (PhD candidate, Biology & Burke Museum).
I am writing to express very strong support for the GRC STF proposal. I am a graduate student in the Department of Biology, which is part of the College of Arts and Sciences. My research involves estimating the evolutionary relationships of reptiles and amphibians at the species and population levels using genomic data. I plan to integrate genomic, environmental, and physiological data in a multidimensional analysis that will extrapolate the factors influencing local adaptation due to climate change. In order to maximize the scope of my genomic dataset, I anticipate collecting tissue samples from the field and requesting inter-institutional loans of tissues. I will also collect tissues for RNA extraction, which are particularly sensitive to the freezing and rethawing cycles of old and unreliable freezers. New freezers for our Genetic Resources Collection (GRC) will ensure that valuable and often irreplaceable samples are preserved for future research. Without them, my own research and that of future researchers could be in jeopardy. Thank you for your time and consideration of this request.

Rochelle Kelly (PhD candidate, Biology & Burke Museum)
I am a graduate student in the Department of Biology, and I have developed a dissertation project that will involve the genetic resources collection at the Burke Museum. My research is field based and I collect tissue samples from the organisms I study. I would greatly benefit from the renovated tissue storage freezers proposed. Not only is reliable tissue preservation critical prior to carrying out my genetic analyses, but also such that tissues I collect can be accessioned and contribute to this invaluable collection.

Leonard Jones II (Second year PhD student, Biology & the Burke Museum of Natural History)
As a graduate student whose dissertation research is locally deposited at the Burke Museum, my largely independent dissertation research would not be possible without the Burke's freezers for specimen/tissue storage. My research is centered around using genomic data from garter snake populations across the San Juan Islands to assess biogeographic history and population structure. This requires dense sampling, and I can expect to have over 140 specimens representing 3 species stored in the Burke freezers by the end of this calendar year. Sampling in this region has not been previously conducted, and therefore the required specimens are not available in other research institutions' cryogenic collections. The Burke Museum GRC has afforded me the ability to collect and processes these specimens and have easy access for subsequent genetic analysis. I encourage you to fund the GRC STF because it is crucial to graduate students conducting local and independent research.

Ethan Linck (PhD student, Biology & Burke Museum)
I'm writing in endorsement of the Burke Museum's Genetic Resources Collection STF proposal. As a first-year student interested in avian phylogenetics, my recent decision to attend the University of Washington was heavily influenced by the extraordinary opportunities the GRC provides me. While I had the opportunity to visit other programs with impressive natural history museums, none had as long-standing a commitment to tissue collections, and none were as active in both expanding those collections or integrating students into their maintenance and use.
This is particularly significant to me as a new student as though collecting my own specimens in the field is likely several years in the future, the GRC provides me a wealth of available data to being conducting original research immediately, and learn the methods I will need for the remainder of my career. The Student Tech Fee grant provides essential support not only to upgrade facilities that will serve and attract students like me, but ensure this invaluable library of biodiversity is safeguarded in perpetuity.


Group Funded Item Unit price Quantity Subtotal

Stirling Ultracold Temperature Freezer 780L

$17,843.00 3 $53,529.00

Stirling freezers are newly available (since 2012) and use an all-new, cutting-edge helium-compression piston-engine refrigerant technology that is the most energy efficient (using 66% less energy than equivalent units according to a recent Green Building Group report) and sustainable cooling system currently available for ultracold freezers. Although new technology, it has been been embraced by NASA for the Space Shuttle, and is the only freezer being purchased by Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, which has over 50 units. Large BioTech companies such as Genentech are switching their freezer units (numbering in the thousands) to Stirling because of the drastic energy savings. Stirling freezers are also incredibly space-efficient – storing ca. 50% more samples in the same square footage as our older freezers; thus, we would be able to replace four old freezers with three new ones, while still gaining the equivalent of half a new freezer’s worth of space. The cost for each freezer includes sales tax, and is a reduced rate based on bulk purchase of three units.


For the Burke GRC, which is housed in a very small space within an old building, the drastically reduced energy requirements (and thus heat output) will mean significantly less stress on both the freezers and on UW’s power grid, especially during summer, when the building gets hot and freezers struggle to maintain temperature. The freezers’ higher cooling capacity better safeguards tissues over the long term, and reduced mechanical noise makes for a friendlier work environment. Greater space efficiency ensures that the collection can continue to grow in place for a decade or more even as the Burke seeks an improved building facility, and the elimination of one of our current freezers would get rid of a terribly awkward space-bottleneck we have in one of our over-crowded working areas. Stirling units’ rack/shelf compatibility with our current units means that our three new freezers can function as backup space (and vice versa) to our older units, as needed.

Apple MacBook Pro 13 inch

$1,313.00 2 $2,626.00

Two MacBook Pro with 13.3” Retina Display, 2.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5. Cost includes sales tax.


These small laptops will be used by students working directly in the GRC to access the Zoology databases, which is necessary to search for tissues and to organize, label, and sub-sample them. It is common to have two students working in the collection simultaneously; these laptops will enable them to work independently in the database. In the past, students working in the GRC have borrowed laptops from other collections or users, but have occasionally been unable to find one. This ensures computers dedicated to work in the GRC.

Tyco alarm hookup to existing service

$625.00 3 $1,875.00

Each ultracold freezer is protected by a wireless Inovonics device installed by Tyco Security. Each freezer has its own alarm, so that individual freezer failures can be identified. Freezers are set to -80°C as their normal operating temperature and trigger an alarm at -65°C, which indicates failure (some leeway is provided as freezers warm briefly during normal use.) At alarm temperature, the wireless device sends a signal to a central Burke building alarm panel, which alerts Tyco Security. Tyco contacts Burke Facilities staff, who evaluate the alarm and immediately contact the first person (GRC collections manager) on the GRC emergency phone list/protocol. Neither Tyco nor the Facilities office stop calling until they have an in-person response to the freezer failure: Freezers are monitored 24/7, and typical emergency response begins immediately. After new freezers are installed, a wireless monitor is hooked up to each one and tested – ensuring it properly alerts the central building alarm panel when it is triggered at -65°C.


Because significant structural damage occurs to tissues if they thaw, and tissues can be lost entirely if thawed for more than a few hours, an alarm system indicating freezer failure is critical to ensuring the long-term safety of tissue samples.

Total requested: $58,030.00

Total funded: $58,030.00


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