Molecular collections

The molecular collection is a state-of-the-art facility designed to safeguard the world’s genetic material for future research


Molecular collections are a unique and valuable resource with the capacity to store genetic material for generations to come.

This molecular collection strives to represent global biodiversity and contains material from a wide range of different taxonomic groups from around the world. 

The genetic sequences of organisms stored in this collection contain a wealth of information, including the organism’s evolutionary history, resilience to global changes and their relationship to other organisms and the environment. 

 A clear phronima on a black bench

The molecular collection is a specialist facility that stores DNA, tissue and cell culture samples for the United Kingdom’s research and conservation community. This phronima is kept in a barcoded cryotube used for storing samples at ultra-low temperatures.


The CryoArks project is a BBSRC Bioinformatics and Biological Resources (BBR) funded collaboration between museums, universities, zoos and aquariums. This project aims to create the United Kingdom’s first comprehensive zoological biobank for research and conservation. 

CryoArks makes sure that the frozen collections across the United Kingdom are coordinated, cared for and made available for all researchers to use.

The molecular collection facility at the Natural History Museum is one of the hubs where samples are stored.

All CryoArks samples, even those not held at the Natural History Museum, will be made publicly visible and accessible via the CryoArks database. 


CryoArks links

Insect Pollinators Initiative

The United Kingdom’s Insect Pollinators Initiative (IPI) was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) between 2010-2015 to support projects studying a wide variety of United Kingdom pollinators and their habitats. These projects collected 50,000 United Kingdom pollinator specimens, including bees, flies, beetles, butterflies and moths. The specimens were complete with pollen baskets, gut contents and parasites.  

A subsequent BBSRC funded project made it possible to archive these specimens into the nation’s collections at the Natural History Museum. All the specimens were moved into future-proofed barcoded cryotubes for permanent storage in the -80ºC freezers in the molecular collections facility. Expert curators at the Natural History Museum checked the data and updated the taxonomy to make sure it can be discovered and used. 

All samples and data from 42,320 specimens from the original United Kingdom IPI project are now available via the NHM Data Portal for researchers worldwide to search through and access.

A hand holding a sample tube

Collection capability

Over 2 million 0.5ml tubes




Two rows of freezers

Storage temperatures

  • 3 room-temperature humidity controlled cabinets
  • 24 -20˚C upright freezers
  • 14 -80˚C upright freezers
  • 2 -80˚C chest freezers
  • 3 -196˚C liquid nitrogen tanks
A red docopod on a bench


The molecular collection contains samples from lizards, frogs, birds and bees to mammals, spiders, fish and many more.


A hammertooth fish on a bench with mouth open

Material stored in collection includes tissue samples, whole organisms, cell cultures and DNA extracts. This hammertooth fish Omosudis loweii is part of the collection.

An Amphitretus thielei octopus on a bench, with eyes and spots

The vast range of taxa represented in the collection includes tissues from organisms such as this Amphitretus thielei octopus. 


Collections manager

Jackie Mackenzie-Dodds

Molecular Collections Facility Manager


Collections team

Kirsty Lloyd

BBSRC CryoArks Technician


CryoArks Principal Investigator

Aidan Emery

Researcher and Culture Facility Manager