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About the collections

The National Research Collections Australia are a vital resource for conservation and science. The collections underpin research in agriculture, biosecurity, biodiversity and climate change and are used by researchers all over the world.

Historically, biological collections have been used mainly to classify species and establish their evolutionary relationships. Today, the impact of the National Research Collections Australia stretches far beyond this, touching many areas of science and everyday life.

Our insect collection supports reliable identification of pests at Australia’s borders. Voucher specimens held by our fish collection underpin standardised names for commercial fishes, improving user trust for Australian seafood. Birds in the wildlife collection reveal how some species and their distributions are changing due to climate change. The herbarium has provided data from its holdings about plants of the Kokoda Track to help the PNG Government manage tourism and conservation in the area. Our microalgae collection led to the development of crops containing omega-3 oils. The tree seed centre has provided germplasm that underpins the conservation and breeding populations of many of the world’s most import eucalypt and acacia species.

The oldest specimen in the Australian National Herbarium was collected in 1770 by Joseph Banks.

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Australian National Herbarium (ANH)

The Australian National Herbarium (ANH) is one of the largest plant collections in the country, providing crucial information on Australia's native flora.

With a focus on Australian plants and those of neighbouring regions such as Papua New Guinea and the Pacific, the herbarium has more than 1.5 million specimens held in Canberra and in the additional holdings at the Australian Tropical Herbarium in Cairns. The collection includes the Dadswell Memorial Wood Collection and comprehensive holdings of cryptogams, eucalypts and orchids. The Australian National Herbarium is part of the Centre for Australian National Biodiversity Research, a joint venture between Parks Australia’s Australian National Botanic Gardens and CSIRO.

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Seeds of the past

The oldest living seedlot in the Australian Tree Seed Centre (Acacia triptera from Gilgandra, NSW) was collected in 1963.
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Australian Tree Seed Centre (ATSC)

The Australian Tree Seed Centre is a collection and research centre for Australian native trees. For more than 50 years the centre has been collecting, researching and supplying quality, fully documented tree seed to both domestic and overseas customers. Collections of seed are sourced from wild populations and genetically improved seed is sourced from our domestication and improvement programs.

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The Australian National Insect Collection holds 12 million specimens, including a weevil collected by Charles Darwin at King George Sound (present-day Albany, WA) in March 1836.

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Australian National Insect Collection (ANIC)

The Australian National Insect Collection is recognised both nationally and internationally as a major research collection.

ANIC houses over 12 million specimens in Canberra. It is the world’s largest collection of Australian insects and includes other invertebrates such as nematodes, mites, spiders, earthworms, scorpions and centipedes. ANIC is the nation’s hard drive of insect biodiversity, an authoritative physical reference point for identifying known and newly discovered species. Research outcomes based on ANIC specimens inform biodiversity, biosecurity and conservation research. ANIC runs workshops on insect and nematode identification for various government departments.

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We hold almost 200 000 irreplaceable scientific specimens of wildlife

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Australian National Wildlife Collection (ANWC)

Our Australian National Wildlife Collection provides important information on Australia's wildlife heritage

Specialising in terrestrial vertebrates, ANWC contains specimens of 823 species of Australian birds and many of its mammals, reptiles and amphibians, as well as a rich collection of birds from New Guinea. It also holds more than 100,000 recordings of wildlife sounds, more than 30,000 tissue samples, and eggs of most Australian birds.

Find out more about ANWC

The Australian National Fish Collection contains more than 150,000 specimens.

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Australian National Fish Collection (ANFC)

Our collection helps sustainably manage Australia’s marine biodiversity.

Specialising in marine fishes, the ANFC in Hobart began informally in 1943 and now contains more than 150,000 specimens, along with images and radiographs representing more than 3,000 species from the Indo-Pacific region. The collection’s major strengths are sharks, rays, and deepwater fishes. ANFC is an invaluable resource for biodiversity and biogeographic research on Australian and Indo-Pacific fishes, supporting conservation and fisheries management.

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The Australian National Algae Supply Service provides microalgae strains to institutions in more than 70 countries.

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Australian National Algae Culture Collection (ANACC)

Housed in Hobart, ANACC holds living cultures of more than 1000 strains of microalgae species.

The collection is used to research algal biodiversity and distribution, including both strains of economic importance and environmental concern. The Australian National Algae Supply Service provides microalgae strains as starter cultures to industry, research organisations and educational institutions in more than 70 countries.

Read more about ANACC

The important work we do

Genomics

Biological collections are a giant warehouse of genetic traits that are useful for industry.

Genomics is helping researchers to discover genetic resources to enhance crops, develop new materials for manufacturing, and gain insights into biological processes that can give our industries an edge. Genomics is also helping to identify threats to our biodiversity, conserve species and ecosystems and maintain the resilience of Australia’s natural environment.

Digitisation

We are digitising our natural history collections to support biodiversity discovery, quarantine, heritage and innovation.

Digitisation has many benefits including:

  • allowing us to share rich information to support biodiversity discovery, species identification and quarantine
  • connecting Australian people with their cultural and biodiversity heritage
  • unlocking the billion dollar value investment already made in the more than 15 million specimens in our collections by making them more readily available to the world for science, exploration and innovation.

As we digitise our collections, we are making them available to the public and researchers through the Atlas of Living Australia .

Want to find out more?

Find out more about digitisation of our natural history collections.