Taxonomically, the invertebrate collection is relatively diverse, although certain groups are better represented than others. Taxonomic strengths of the collection include molluscs (chitons, clams, snails, octopods and squid), arthropods (crabs, shrimps and micro-crustaceans), annelids (worms), and echinoderms (sea stars, brittle stars, sea urchins and sea cucumbers). Together, these groups make up more than 90% of the collection. Other less-dominant groups (e.g., sponges, cnidarians and tunicates) are also relatively well represented, considering the number of species in BC. In addition to individual taxa, the collection houses a large number of faunal assemblages from planktonic and benthic ecosystems. Although much of this latter material remains unsorted, these collections serve as important historical baselines for future comparative studies.
The collection is renowned for its representation of invertebrates from British Columbia and adjacent regions. Within the province, geographical strengths include southern areas of the mainland, Vancouver Island, and Haida Gwaii (formerly the Queen Charlotte Islands). Marine environments, particularly coastal habitats, are also well represented. Indeed, the collection contains a rich and diverse assortment of marine fauna, which reflects the biological diversity found within marine ecosystems, coupled with the fact that British Columbia is the only province in Canada that borders the Pacific Ocean.
Physically, the collection is well protected, and is continually maintained to minimize risks of deterioration and damage. The majority of the collection is housed in secure shelving units and containers. Fluid-preserved specimens are kept in containers with sealing lids that reduce fluid evaporation, while most dried specimens are stored in airtight boxes to maintain a stable microclimate. A relatively new and actively growing tissue collection is housed in ultra-low temperature freezers.
Overall, the collection is well organized, and with the development of an extensive database, the majority of specimens and associated data fields now can be efficiently queried and traced. A unique catalogue number and assigned taxon code has been entered into the database for each catalogued lot, making it easy to relocate any specimen within the collection. In addition, taxonomic and collection event data (e.g., collection date, geographic locality and ecological information) have been entered for the majority of specimens.