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Our mission is to facilitate research and education through curating and providing access to our diverse collection of samples from the world’s seafloor. This includes, but is not limited to rocks, lake and marine sediment, corals, shells, peat, and wood. We support the advancement of scientific knowledge by providing technical and analytical expertise, in addition to instrumentation and field equipment.


The purpose of the repository is to curate our collections and associated datasets in order to facilitate modern science and research. To do this we work to:

  • expand and curate the collections using best practices for future research and education
  • distribute geological subsamples from our collections for future research and education
  • promote access to our diverse collections via our outreach program and web and data services
  • serve as a community resource for field programs
  • collaborate with and train scientists and students

Code of Conduct

The WHOI Seafloor Samples Lab follows the WHOI Code of Conduct.

Storage Conditions

There are two main storage areas within the repository, each with its own set of storage conditions appropriate for preservation of specific sample types. The facility includes a backup generator, temperature monitoring, and alarm systems.

  • Dry/Rock Storage Areas: These areas are subject to ambient storage conditions of the McLean. The temperature is not tightly constrained and will vary with the temperature and humidity conditions of Woods Hole, MA throughout the year. The corals, rock samples, and dry sediment cores are stored in this area.
  • Cold Room: This is the storage area for the repository’s sediment core collections. The room maintains a temperature of 36-40°F. These conditions are appropriate for the preservation of sediment cores such that they will not freeze nor desiccate, and will slow any growth of mold.

Data and Sample Moratorium

The WHOI SFSL adheres to the standard NSF Sample and Data Policies.

After a standard (two year) moratorium, all sample materials housed at WHOI SFSL and data created at the facility will be made publicly available to the Earth science community. Extensions of this moratorium period may be possible and can be requested by Principal Investigators via email to the relevant funding agency (cc’ing WHOI SFSL). The sample collectors will have direct and sole access to those samples during a moratorium period. For cores, we define the moratorium start date as the day that the cores are split open.

  • Copies of all data generated in house on all accessioned samples will be retained and linked to the sample record in the repository’s data management system. The standard 2-year moratorium applies to data collected in-house.
  • In addition to copies of associated publications related to samples collected from the WHOI SFSL collections, copies of any analytical results (tabular data, and DOIs if available) generated from repository samples must be submitted to the SFSL upon two years after the date of the sampling event.

Sample Distribution Policy

Sample Distribution Policy (4/18)

The  sample  distribution  policies  outlined  on the  following  pages  are  intended  to  encourage  effective  utilization  of  nationwide sea floor sample collections funded by NSF.  The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) Seafloor Samples Laboratory is prepared to furnish samples and data to interested researchers and students within the global scientific community who express a legitimate interest and need.

Statement of Proposed Research

All requests for samples should be accompanied by a concise statement describing the study for which samples are needed, including methods or procedures to be used, the specific scientific problem to be addressed by the study, and the names of collaborating investigators.  Additionally, requests should be accompanied by a description of the laboratory facilities available to the requestor and the source of financial support that will fund the related work. All of this information should be provided via the “Sample Request Form”. If these details differ significantly for associated investigators, the nature of their proposed research, facilities, and funding should also accompany the sample request.

Sample Request Review and Proprietary Rights of the Collector

 The PI will retain authority to approve sample requests until two years from when samples are logged into the repository database. This restriction is enforced in order that those investigators directly involved with the collection of samples will have adequate time to complete their initial work on the material.  With permission of the PI, certain samples may be released for study prior to the end of that period. The curator or lab director may impose special conditions on the distribution of samples in order to ensure effective utilization of the material.  Such special conditions would include the storage of samples in either refrigerated or frozen space.  Following the period of proprietary access, sample requests will be approved by the curator’s office. All sample requests, during and following the period of proprietary access, must be submitted to the WHOI Seafloor Samples Lab using the online “Sample Request Form”. The curatorial staff will review and approve all sample requests.

Sample Request Details:  Location, Identification and Sample Size

All ‘sediment’ requests should specify ship, cruise number, core number, and sample depth in the core. If possible, alternative cores or sampling intervals within specific cores should be provided.  For dredge, grab, or other device requests, ship ID, station, and specific sample numbers should be included.  In addition, if a request results in a large amount of samples [more than 200], the WHOI Seafloor Samples Laboratory may ask that the requestor make arrangements to visit the curation facility and undertake the sampling process with the assistance of the curatorial staff.  If a sample request is defined by regional, bathymetric, or physiographic parameters, the alpha-numeric details specified above will be determined by the results of an in house search, and thus provided to the requestor for review by the curator. The request should indicate the minimum sample weight or volume needed.

Special Note for Core Archive-Half Requests

Following a general rule, sediment cores are split into two identical halves after retrieval, the working half and the archive half. While the working half is available for sampling to facilitate the specific scientific objectives related to the collection strategy, the archive half is intended to remain a pristine untouched record of the material recovered. All non-destructive split-core analyses are usually made on the archive half (e.g. magnetic susceptibility, gamma ray density, line scan images, XRF-scans, CT-scans etc.) leaving it as a permanent record. However, sometimes the need arises to sample the archive half. This is usually because of complete depletion of the working half. In these instances, decisions concerning fulfillment of specific archive half sample requests are made by the curatorial staff and a review of the request will be made to appropriate parties to determine whether the proposed science and sampling plan justifies sampling of the archive half of the core.

Responsibilities of Person Receiving Samples

  1. The original alphanumeric samples label should be used to identify individual samples referred to in published papers. Any departure from this scheme should be clearly equated with the original labeling system in the published papers or data summaries. This labeling system will be explained in the information supplied with the samples.
  2. Published papers should acknowledge the source of samples and the appropriate grant of funding agency which supported the cruise recovering the samples. This information will be supplied at the time the samples are acquired. These papers should also acknowledge the financial support responsible for maintaining the WHOI Seafloor Samples Laboratory This information will be provided at the time of sampling.
  3. Copies of all published papers, reports or data summaries utilizing samples from the collection should be sent to the appropriate WHOI staff scientist, and the WHOI Seafloor Samples Laboratory. One electronic copy of all published reports, papers, or data where samples have been used should be sent to the WHOI Seafloor Samples Laboratory at for inclusion in the repository database. This helps track the effectiveness of NSF’s investment in national sample archiving facilities as well as justify future sample requests by an investigator.
  4. The researcher should return all unused samples or portions of samples to the curator at the completion of the work.
  5. Recipients of samples should not co-opt the services of other investigators or undertake research projects which differ substantially from work originally proposed, without obtaining the approval of the curatorial staff.

Materials for Educational and Museum Displays

Requests are welcome for samples by museums or other educational purposes.  Each request will be considered on its own merits and reviewed and approved by curatorial staff. Educators and students should submit a brief explanation of how materials were used, and the number of people reached by the use of materials.


The staff of the WHOI SFSL will take the requested samples, or researchers may take their own samples under staff supervision. We request that researchers with large sample requests (>200) come to the repository to collect their samples.

Sediment samples will be taken so that a continuous vertical portion of the core remains in the work half whenever possible. In general, the archive half is reserved for non-destructive analyses in order to preserve the original stratigraphy of the core.

Sample Shipment

The SFSL pays for shipping of samples within the United States. International researchers should plan to submit a shipping account number prior to sampling if request is larger than 200 samples.

Facility Acknowledgment

  • We request that the WHOI SFSL be acknowledged as the source of the sample material and/or provider of related analytical data in any publication that contains results from studies of the collections. Use WHOI SFSL sample identifiers, location, and sample depths so that future researchers will be able to locate materials for additional investigations.
  • By acceptance of these policies, users agree to the repository’s policy on acknowledgement in, and notification of, publications related to work conducted here.
  • All lab users should acknowledge the facility in their publications and presentations. Including the facility in your acknowledgements helps to spread the word about our services, and is crucial to the continued funding of the program. When the results of an WHOI SFSL assisted project are published in journals, book chapters, conference proceedings, or theses, we request that the manuscript include an acknowledgement similar to the following: [Cores are archived at / Samples provided by] Seafloor Samples Lab, Geology and Geophysics Department, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
  • In talks, we request an acknowledgement similar to the following: Assistance provided by Seafloor Samples Lab, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
  • In addition, when a project is complete, we request that all users provide us with a copy (preferably pdf or other electronic format) of any resulting manuscripts, which we will keep for our records. This, too, is important for the continuation of our facility.
  • Users are also asked to consider including extensive assistance provided by facility staff in their acknowledgements.