SBBG Tissue Bank

Tissue Bank Flow Chart - image by Emily ThomasTissue banks are important resources for biodiversity research, providing the raw material from which researchers can extract genomic DNA for use in a variety of different types of studies. These studies range from understanding the genetic structure of rare populations on the landscape, to description of new or cryptic taxa based on improved phylogenetic inference, to macroevolutionary studies of entire floras. The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden Tissue Bank, established in 2018, will soon be connected to the Global Genome Biodiversity Network ( international consortium, fueling research within the Garden as well as collaborations with other institutions and individuals.

When collections are made in the field for the SBBG Tissue Bank, care is taken to ensure that samples are well-preserved and that sufficient metadata is recorded. Our botanists place tissue samples in manila coin envelopes labeled with the name of the plant, the name of the collector, and collection number, date, and location. To ensure that downstream DNA isolations represent a single genetic individual, each envelope contains tissue from only one individual. Sample envelopes are then placed into plastic bags containing silica gel, drying the tissue quickly to avoid degradation. It is crucial that tissue collections have associated herbarium specimens for purposes of identification; a single voucher may serve to represent an entire population when taking several tissue samples within a population.

Tissue Bank - photo by Emily Thomas

Metadata associated with tissue collections is transcribed into SBBG’s Genomic Tissue Bank Database, as well as the Global Genome Biodiversity Network. Tissues collected for the SBBG Genomics Tissue Bank are stored in air-tight plastic containers, labeled by plant family, and tissues are organized alphabetically by taxon. Silica gel is recharged when color-changing beads indicate that the gel is saturated with moisture.

The Tissue Bank at SBBG currently contains 6,200 tissue samples representing 1,500 taxa. Prominently featured plant families include Crassulaceae with 1,300 tissues, Asteraceae with 900 tissues, Boraginaceae with 650 tissues, and Malvaceae with 350 tissues. These collections span more than 120 plant families and 460 genera, expanding far beyond the California Floristic Province. Channel Island taxa currently make up nearly 30% of the tissue bank (1,900 of the 6,200 collections). Every vascular plant taxon known to be present on San Nicolas Island will be represented in the tissue bank due to collection efforts spurred by genetic barcoding projects. Island endemics and rare mainland species are among the most highly represented taxa in the repository, including several species of Dudleya, Eriodictyon, and the extremely rare Berberis pinnata subsp. insularis. The tissue bank is growing with every field season as collaborators contribute collections.​ SBBG Tissue Bank Pie Chart - by Emily Thomas

The SBBG Tissue Bank accepts tissue collections from outside sources, and will fulfill requests for tissue loans. Contributors are asked to provide accompanying metadata sufficient to be research-grade, including: taxon name, collector name and number, specimen voucher information (especially if voucher is deposited at a separate herbarium), collection date, locality and GPS Coordinates.

Upon request, the Garden can provide contributors with collection materials: silica, manila coin envelopes, and collection forms. As is expected with other collection efforts, when collecting tissue for the Garden, researchers must have acquired the appropriate permits and used responsible collection methods.

To request tissue samples or collection materials, contact the following SBBG personnel:

K. Hasenstab-Lehman – [email protected]

M. Guilliams – [email protected]