Lou Van Guelpen helped deliver this
thresher shark to the Atlantic Reference Centre research museum in St. Andrews.
museum recognized as world class
Prize Little known to the
public, reference centre provides deep sea samples to researchers all
- Some strangelooking creatures inhabit the depths off the Atlantic coast of
Canada and the northeast United States.
looking for a rare species can likely find it at the Atlantic Reference Centre
research museum in St. Andrews, says Lou Van Guelpen, curator of fishes and
Not many of the public in Charlotte
County know about the reference centre, but marine biologists around the world
do, Van Guelpen said.
"It's not a public museum, it's
what you would see behind the scenes at a public museum."
Recently the Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine
Environment gave one of its two annual Visionary Awards for New Brunswick to
the reference centre.
The centre took the annual award in
the group category and Peter Etheridge of Millbrook won in the individual
category. Provincial Environment Minister Rock Miles and Fisheries Minister
Rick Doucet officially presented the awards in Fredericton at the legislature
The Atlantic Reference Centre, part of the
Huntsman Marine Science Centre, came about in 1984 through an amalgamation of
the Huntsman centre's ichthyological laboratory and the marine species
identification centre next door at the federal Fisheries and Oceans Biological
Station, Van Guelpen said.
The biological station began
operations in 1908, the Huntsman centre next door in 1969. Over the years the
neighbouring institutions accumulated samples of sea creatures, which they
stored in bottles and tanks on shelves here, there and elsewhere.
While the Huntsman accumulated specimens at the
ichthyological laboratory, the biological station amassed what Van Guelpen
calls "a very nice local collec tion" at the identification centre.
They amalgamated their efforts to bring order to this
growing collection, giving birth to the reference centre - "a research museum
for Canadian Atlantic marine life and a centre for biodiversity information and
applied environmental research;' the official brochure states.
The Fisheries and Oceans Department provides facilities
and partial funding while the Huntsman provides staff, additional finding and
Five people manage this
collection of 150,000 and growing catalogued lots. One lot can number many
specimens, Van Guelpen noted.
It amounts to the best
collection of algae, invertebrates and fishes from fresh and saltwater from the
Davis Strait south to Cape Cod, Mass. While Van Guelpen looks after fish
species, Gerhard Pohle takes care of invertebrates.
Atlantic Reference Centre staff process and identifies
specimens, provides information; advice and research to government,
universities, museums, private institutions and the public; and trains
students, technicians and researchers.
centre lends specimens out to researchers much like a library. Specimens can
keep forever properly preserved in alcohol, Van Guelpen said.
No museum could hope to amass a complete collection of
flora and fauna from a swath of ocean this big, but the reference centre is
working on it.
Besides the specimens that scientists at
the biological station and the Huntsman centre provide, the reference centre
collects some on its own, too.
"We are the ultimate
repository for those type of things," Van Guelpen said.
The museum does not have complete historical coverage of
all specimens from different eras, nor complete geographic coverage - the same
species from different areas-"but we have strong representations of some
things," he said.
The reference centre has a particularly
good collection of deep sea fishes, as well as of benthos, animals in the
sediment on the sea floor, Van Guelpen said.
sea" he means more than 1,000 metres down. Scientists drag the bottom to bring
plants and animals up from that deep.
specimens in the reference centre would "probably be some of the deep sea
crabs," Van Guelpen said." I don't know how rare they are but they are not
caught that often."
The Gulf of Maine Council recognized
the reference centre for its collection, but could have acknowledged it for the
work it does for providing information on biodiversity, now available online,
Van Guelpen said.
The centre is taking part in the
10-year Census of Marine Life involving research scientists in 80 countries.
The information is available on Google Earth.
comes with the award, but the reference centre appreciatesthe recognition
"It's recognized as a world class museum,"
Van Guelpen said.
Two other New Brunswickers accepted
Gulf of Maine Council awards in New Hampshire earlier this month.
Byron James, deputy minister of post-secondary education,
training and labour, received the Susan Snow Cotter Award honouring coastal
management professionals who exemplify outstanding leadership or exceptional
mentoring in the Gulf of Maine watershed.
The Fundy North
F ishermen's Association received the Gulf of Maine Industry Award recognizing
innovation and leadership to improve the well-being of the Gulf of Maine
ecosystem and the communities in it.
the Bay of Fundy an extension of the Gulf of Maine.
HUNTSMAN MARINE SCIENCE CENTRE This is the head
of a portsbeagle shark, one of the many species at the Atlantic Reference
Centre research museum in St. Andrews.
HUNTSMAN MARINE SCIENCE CENTRE Gerhard Pohle at
the Atlantic Reference Centre research museum in St. Andrews works on a deep