Collection Data

Page Contents: Section | Significance | Background | Location & Dates | Taxonomic Contents | Documentation | Description of Collection | Collection Inventory | Collection Assets

DISCO – Diversity Initiative for the Southern California Ocean

Section Responsible for Processing



Diversity Initiative for the Southern California Ocean (DISCO), May 2015 – present.
This MBC initiative is creating authoritative, accessible, and effective tools to help understand coastal invertebrate diversity and ultimately climate change: using genetic techniques to develop identification and discovery tools; making NHM a nexus for unifying the disparate existing efforts across Southern California; making authoritative information accessible to both professionals and the public; and engaging both the professional community and the public in creating these resources. Since the beginning of 2016, we have increased the number of DISCO specimens from around 3,000 to over 8,000 today. A large number of these specimens are coming from colleagues and other coordinated projects such that our specimen collecting is minimal. At present, the specimens for molecular work represent about 430 families of marine invertebrates. About 760 species are currently identified (but note that numerous specimens are currently on loan to taxonomists for identification to species level, which will significantly increase the species numbers). With our most recent transfer of tissues to the Smithsonian’s LAB, we have made the first pass at developing the data field mapping and export pipeline to move our specimen data to GGBN-GGI, the sequence data to GenBank and BOLD, and vouchers into the permanent NHMLA collections. (

This initiative focuses on Southern California marine invertebrate fauna, from intertidal to 1,000 m depth, and from Point Conception to the Mexican border. The initiative’s purpose is to create authoritative, accessible, and effective tools to help understand coastal invertebrate diversity. Specimens attributed to this project are/will be useful for DNA extraction.


We know that our oceans are changing quickly, and our coastal biota are responding. Successful management requires that we know what species are where, and how their distributions change with time.

Current monitoring technology, based on specialist identifications of individual organisms, just cannot keep pace. Standard approaches to ecological research and monitoring efforts that look at marine species distributions depend on highly trained taxonomists to sort and identify the animals in environmental samples. Identification of marine macroinvertebrates is challenging because of their small size, complex morphology, and extreme diversity. Therefore, because of the expertise and time required, relatively few sites can be sampled, and often studies are restricted to a handful of “indicator” species, rather than comprehensively looking at the community. This cripples our ability to see the widespread but subtle changes to our coastal biota that accompany variations in ocean temperature and acidity. We need quicker and more effective ways to identify the species in marine samples.

Collection Location and Dates

Collections attributed to this project come from opportunistic collecting efforts by NHM staff and associates.

Taxonomic Contents

All marine invertebrate phyla represented in the Southern California Ocean.


Full label data is available from the MBC database.

Description of Collection

Specimens are wet preserved -- mostly in 95% ethanol, on rare occasion 70% ethanol.

Collection Inventory

Material available for genetic work is being assembled in the MBC Collection Room and MBC freezers and mostly contained in 1 oz. jars whenever possible.

Collection Assets

No collection assets available.

Curatorial Status (Click to view)