Historical marine collections

A resource for ocean acidification research

Ocean acidification is of increasing concern as a possibly major environmental consequence of anthropogenic CO2 emissions. One way of investigating the likely impact is to determine the effect the process has had on marine organisms over the past 150 years, during which time ocean pH levels have decreased in concert with rising atmospheric CO2.

As a contribution to the UK Ocean Acidification Research Programme this website summarises a survey of potentially useful collections in the Natural History Museum and other British institutions.

It provides a summary of collections of marine biocalcifying organisms with known collection date and location, collected prior to 1965 and ideally pre-1900. We have also included some important collections of more recent material, particularly if they have comprehensive associated data.

It is intended to facilitate access to these collections by researchers in the field, by:

  • summarising what material is available
  • providing links to more detailed databases and collection summaries
  • giving contacts for collections access
  • Some of the samples collected during the HMS Challenger voyage in the 1870s, stored at the Museum
    Natural History Museum collections

    The Museum houses a number of potentially useful collections. These contain a wide variety of marine organisms, as well as ocean deposit samples and residues, and include material from important historical research expeditions. Find out more.

  • Dried molluscs in the National Museums Scotland collections
    Collections at other institutions

    In addition to the Natural History Museum, a number of other institutions have collections that could be useful for ocean acidification-related research. Learn about the collections and where they are housed.

  • Scanning electron microscope image of a foraminifera, a calcareous microfossil
    Calcified taxa in the collections

    Discover which collections particular calcified organisms feature in.

Project team

Project research was carried out by:

  • Dr John Stewart
  • Dr Phil Fenberg

The project was coordinated by Dr Jeremy Young, as a contribution of the Natural History Museum’s Climate Change Research Group.

We are grateful to numerous collections managers and curators for their assistance.


This site is intended to be a useful resource for ocean acidification researchers. We welcome any comments or feedback that could help us make improvements - email the project coordinator, Jeremy Young.