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Genetic Resources at the Burke

The Genetic Resource Collection (GRC) at the Burke Museum is essentially a "library" of biodiversity, containing tissue specimens from birds and mammals for use in molecular research. This collection started in 1986 and is now one of the largest of its type in the world, with tissues from more than 55,000 birds, 9,000 mammals and 1,500 reptiles and amphibians.

The Burke's GRC and the few others like it are the only places where tissues of a wide variety of animals are being systematically collected and stored in archival conditions for future research: they contain frozen tissues from thousands of species that would otherwise not be available to scientists. The importance of such collections is increasing rapidly as habitats and organisms face destructive pressure in the wild, and as scientists discover the rich array of biological information available from well-preserved tissues.

The Burke GRC loans sub-samples of these tissues to researchers for molecular studies, which may involve analysis of DNA, RNA, proteins, or isotopes. See our Tissue Policy for more details and loan conditions. Curators and graduate students are affiliated with UW's Biology Department.


Adam Leaché, Ph. D.
Curator of Genetic Resources and Herpetology

Sharon Birks, Ph. D.
Genetic Resources Manager

-80C freezers
Burke Museum Genetic Resources Collection: The tissue collection is stored in five -80C freezers
Photo by Sharon Birks

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Featured in Genetic Resources


A diverse array of studies—all based on the Burke GRC.

Tissue Policy

Policies for using the Genetic Resources Collection, requesting a loan, and more.

An irreplaceable resource

The Burke GRC is historically unique