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With rare traces of human presence but rich natural and scientific resources, the polar regions, a scientific book of which scientists devote themselves to the perseverant read, have accumulated huge quantities of exact and detailed records of the evolvement of the Earth’s climate, environment and geosphere, human activities, and a good many outer space events. The scientists set up sensors to get data and collect samples of ice core, biology, sediment, meteorite, rock, and fossil to study in labs.

Since the first Antarctic research expedition in 1984, China has conducted a lot of polar scientific research expedition activities. Formed by one research ship and three stations (R/V Xuelong, Great Wall Station, Zhongshan Station, Arctic Yellow River Station), a polar research expedition system has been set up. Up to now totally 22 Chinese National Antarctic Research Expeditions (CHINARE), two Arctic marine science cruises, and three years of the Arctic Yellow River Station Research Expeditions had been successfully completed. Except research expeditions conducted in the stations and the adjacent areas, 18 Southern  Ocean  science cruises,three science expeditions on Amery Ice Shelf,  four science traverses on the Grove Mountains, and five science traverses on inland icecap had been accomplished in the important areas of the Antarctica. All of the previous CHINARE had collected from a world of ice and snow in the polar regions a huge quantity of precious samples such as snow,ice core, plants and animals, meteorites, sediments, rocks, minerals, and fossils.

The Resource-sharing Platform of Polar Samples (hereinafter as the Platform)thus acts as a distributed “bank” storing the samples and specimen, mainly providing those scientists who try to initiate the relevant studies but can not go to the polar regions with samples and information to make utmost use of the precious sample resources.

In December 2005, the Experimental Standardization and Sharing of the polar region biological and geological samples project(No:2005DKA21406), as a part of the National Infrastructure Natural Resources for Science and Technology Platform and National Specimen Information Infrastructure Plan, was approved by the Ministry of Science and Technology of China and thus this Platform starts up.

Polar Research Institute of China (PRIC) affiliated to  the State Oceanic Administration is in charge of the construction of the Platform together with several institutes under Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Ministry of Land and Resources. Chinese Arctic and Antarctic Administration affiliated to  the State Oceanic Administration governing PRIC , and other polar resource related organizations jointly found the Polar Sample and Resource Sharing Council in charge of the management and sharing of the polar samples for all relevant organizations.  

Subject to the type and distribution of most of the polar samples, the Platform consists of one website and five depositories. PRIC  curates the deep-space depository, the ice-snow depository and the sediment depository, while the rock depository is jointly curated by the Institute of Geology and Geophysics Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Geomechanics and the Institute of Geology of the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences, and the biology depository is jointly curated by the Institute of Oceanology Chinese Academy of Sciences and PRIC. PRIC sets up and maintains the polar sample sharing data and information website BIRDS, providing services of management and query on the polar sample information and services of handling the application for the samples.

In the coming years, with the further coordinating and integration of the exiting sample resources and the expanding of the wild polar sample collecting area, the type and scalar of the polar samples for the Platform will increase dramatically so as to provide national and international scientists with more polar samples and specimens.

2.Samples and Resources from Polar Region

2.1 Biology Depository

The biology depositories of the Platform include the depository of the Institute of Oceanology Chinese Academy of Sciences and the depository of PRIC. These two depositories preserve more than 5000 pieces of marine and terrestrial biological samples obtained during previous CHINARE since 1984.

The biology depository of the Institute of Oceanology Chinese Academy of Sciences preserves 3000 and more pieces of biological samples from the adjacent Antarctic, and other regions of the Circum-Southern Ocean, including samples of algae, protist, poriferan, cnidaria, mollusk, crustacean, bryozoa, echinozoa, fish and seabirds and the like marine biological phyla. This depository locates in the Marine Biological Sample Museum of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the biggest marine biological sample museum in Aisa, with a polar marine ecology exhibition showing particularly penguins, seals and the like large polar marine biological samples.

The biology depository of PRIC preserves 2000 and more pieces of biological samples from the adjacent Antarctic , and the Arctic Yellow River Station, including samples of marine microalgae, large-sized seaweeds , mollusk, crustacean, fish and seabirds and the like marine biological phyla , lichen, moss, carpophyte and the like land plants, as well as 100 pieces of the purified polar microalgae.

Up to now more than 400 pieces of the polar marine plant and animal samples information have been published via BIRDS website by the two depositories for scientists and researchers. In the future the rest of the samples information as well as those newly collected will be available step by step. These precious poplar samples reveal the rarely known rich storage of the marine biological resources in the polar regions and offer the precious practicalities for the study of the marine and terrestrial ecology, taxonomy, and biological,etc.

Antarctic Krill:Latin name Euphausia superba, an overwhelming marine crustacean  in the Southern Ocean, is the main food resources for the Antarctic seabirds, seals, blue whales and the like mammals. Weak in active movements, they normally swarm in life: sometimes the shoal can be up to half a kilometer long, several hundred meters wide, and 10 - 16 kg m-3 in density. It is preliminarily estimated that there are totally about 0.6 to 1 billion tons of krill in the Southern Ocean, the biggest animal protein storage by one species in the Earth. CHINARE has conducted many surveys on the krill biomass and Antarctic ecology. The photos are the samples obtained by zooplankton nets.

Adeliae Penguin:Latin name Pygoscelis adeliae. It is the most widely distributed penguin with the largest population, around 5 million in Antarctica. A colony normally includes several thousands of penguins. It is about 50 centimeters high, 4 kilograms in weight, with a maximum life span of around 20 years. Its eye rims are white, its head appears bluish green, its beak is black with slim feathers in the edges, its legs are short, and its feet are black. It spends the winter in the sub-Antarctic, and back the Antarctic in the spring for breeding. Its foods are mainly euphausiid together with shoal beasties, fingerling, and crustaceans. Its natural enemies are mainly leopard seals, Antarctic skua, salanganes, and other seabirds normally attack poults and eggs.        

Marine Microalgae: Marine microalgae can synthesize inorganic carbon into organic carbon by photosynthesis, and this is the original source of materials and energy in the marine ecosystem. Widely distributed in the sea water, sea ice, and sea sediment, it plays an important role in the marine ecosystem. The microalgae samples are the basis of the marine microalgae taxonomy and ecology studies. The photo  (left)showed are cells of Biddulphia striata, a common species in the Southern Ocean in summer. Cells are solitary or in short chains with two or four curved labiate proceeses, and can form heavily silicified resting  spores in harsh environment.  

Arctic Purified Microalgae: The purified samples of the Arctic microalgae were collected from the fields and purified via separation in the lab. It is of great value in studies because of it’s low temperature resistance, salt tolerance, and other special physiological characteristics and therefore is an ideal object in basic scientific researches, such as physiology and ecology, and applied researches, such as special bioactive material research.  The photo purified algae strains separated from the Arctic glacier melted water.

2.2 Ice-snow Depository

The polar snow-ice, the important information carrier of the global climate and environmental changes, plays an important role in the research on the global changes. By systematical collection of surface snow, firn, ice shelf, glacier, and ice sheet samples and data, the conducted comprehensive researches, such as ice-snow physical geography, geochemistry, glacier remote sensing, and datum simulation, help to comprehend the process of the modern climate and environmental changes and the history of glacier dynamics changes, recover ancient climate and environmental records, get the important information on the last climate changes, probe into the mechanism of the climate changes, and provide scientific data basis to forecast the tendency of future’s climate changes for establishing social and economic sustainable strategy. Up to now all our previous CHINARE had successfully conducted expedition on glacier and gotten a lot of snow-ice samples in the King George Island of the West Antarctic, the Amery Ice Shelf of the East Antarctic, the Dalk Glacier, the Zhongshan Station-Dome A inland traverse, Dome A area, and the Yellow River Station of the Arctic.

PRIC has set up low temperature ice core depository, which stores all of the ice-snow samples and ice core samples in around 300 meters drilled from Collins Icecap of the southwestern Antarctic during the Eighth Five-Year Plan period, total 538 meters of ice core samples and approximately 2000 important snow-ice samples collected from five science traverses between Zhongshan Station and Dome A on inland icecap during the Ninth and the Tenth Five-Year Plan period, 302 meters of ice core samples collected in expedition on Amery Ice Shelf, 70 snow samples and lake water samples collected from Dalk Glacier area, four sets of snow-ice samples from the South Pole and the Antarctic Byrd Station by exchange with American Byrd Research Center.

Ice Core from Amery Ice Shelf:   On Amery Ice Shelf, an ice core was collected, with the length of around 301.96 meters and a diameter of 10 centimeters, which penetrating the inland ice layer, and containing more than 20 meters of submarine ice core at the bottom. The most ice volume of the inland ice sheet is mainly transported via ice shelf to the surrounding sea, and that imposes important influence on the global ocean circulation and sea level changes. The Amery Ice Shelf, the third largest ice shelf after the Ross Ice Shelf and Weddell Ice Shelves in Antarctica, is one of the critical areas to be studied on the Antarctic Global Change, and the mass balance and the interactive process among the ice shelf and the atmosphere and the sea are the hottest issues in the polar science.  CHINARE started comprehensive expedition on the Amery Ice Shelf in 2002 and has successfully got high quality ice shelf core samples.

Dome A Ice Core: We got an ice core at Dome A, with the length of around 109.68 meters and a diameter of 10 centimeters. The Antarctic Ice sheet formed around 35 million years ago. The present giant ice sheet material is accumulated from millions of years’ primitive precipitation, storing long term information of high resolution atmosphere and environmental change. In recent years, the international geosciences field pays special attention to searching for the best drilling site to find the longest climate record. Dome A, located in the center of the Antarctic Inland Ice sheet, being the zenith of the Antarctic Ice sheet (altitude 4093 meters), called “human inaccessible site”, is expected to be such a candidate. CHINARE successfully reached the Dome A in January 2005 and drilled an ice core of 109.68 meters long for the first time, which is critical for the research on the climate and environmental evolvement since the last millennium.

At present the coordination and informative expression of the ice-snow samples are ongoing in the ice-snow depository. The partial information of 100 meters of ice core samples collected from Dome A in 2005 has been published via BIRDS website. In the near future the rest information of other samples in the depository will be published in succession for the scientists and researchers to use.

2.3 Rock Depository

As the main material forming the upper level of the Earth(the Earth’s crust and the upper mantle) and the mineral aggregation by natural output in a stable shape,  Rock is made up of one or several rock-forming minerals by certain means. Since more than 20 years ago, China has accomplished great achievements in the studies of the Antarctic geology and acient environment and accumlated rich rock samples. The rock depository is built by the Institute of Geology and Geophysics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Geomechanics of the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences together with other institutes. This rock depository preserves part of the rock samples collected by all of the previous CHINARE since 1984.

With a long histroy of geologcial evolvement, the different types of rocks distributed in the Antarctica form the distinctive character of landform and physiognomy. The samples in this rock depository cover the three types of rocks,namely, magmatic rock, sedimentary rock, and metamorphic rock, which were mainly collected from the Grove Mountains, the Antarctic inland, and the coastal areas of the Prydz Bay in the Southeastern Antarctica including the Larsemann Hills, the Landing Bluff,the Munro Kerr Mountains , and other areas.

With the traditional observation method by microscope incorporating the modern surveying and drawing techniques, Chinese geologists have perfomed deep researches on the rock’s constituents, structure, conformation, geochemistry, chronology, micropaleontology, sedimental rock forming environment, cosmological nuclide exposing chronology and so on. The research fields cover tectonics evolvement and the Cenozoic Icecap inland ancient environmental evolvement. The tectonics research reveals that the main transformation of the Prydz Bay in the Southeastern Antarctica occurred in the Pan-African period, and the Prydz Bay and the Grove Mountains jointly formed an important belt, the Prydz Belt. The confirmation of the Prydz Belt offers important evidence on the junction, during the Pan-African Period, of the plates of the ancient East Gondwana. The evolvement history of the Southeastern Antarctic Icecap reveals that it has always been in the constant process of dynamic changes after it formed, and especially during the period of Pliocene violent collapse occurred: at that time its edge, 400 and more kilometers away from today’s edge,  was located to the south of the Grove Mountains. The time of this ancient climate environmental affair is the same with the time when the big icecap in the Northern Hemisphere formed, and this offers important revealation to the deep research on the ancient climate change mechanism of the planet Earth system.

Up to now more than 400 pieces of the polar rock samples information have been published via BIRDS website with detailed description in words on the origin, location, mineral constituents, structure and formation with photos in appearance and microscope. In the future the rest of the samples as well as those newly collected will be available for the scientists and the researchers to use.

Charnockite: sample ID: GE5-3. It formed in the Cambrian Period. The geological occurrence : occurs as vein intruding into gneiss, in lark, with grain cylinder metacryst,  texture,  gneissic structure. It mainly consists of orthopyroxene, hornblend, biotite, plagioclase, K-feldspar, quartz, and a little Fe-Ti-oxides. Dark minerals concentrated in pile and are collected in Southeastern Antarctica Gale Escarpment.

Grove Mountains cold-desert soils: 16 cold-desert soil-patches were found on the southern slope of Mount Harding in 1999-2000. They commonly show widespread surface desert pavement with some water laid structures in soil layers.The soils have generally abundant water-soluble salts, with slightly acid component and negligible organic matter content. The accumulation of water-soluble salts indicates iontransportation in the frigid and arid environment. The distribution of the salts is related to the maximum content of moisture and clay mineral. Clay fraction migration occurs in the soils. As melt-water is required for the formation of these soils, while the highest temperature we recorded during austral summer in the Grove Mountains is -10 ℃, the presence of these soils indicates that a warmer climatic environment, presenting seasonal ice-thawing at least, once existed in the area.

2.4 Deep-space Depository

Except from the Moon, people can not obtain geological samples from other planetary  bodies in the solar system by spaceflight vehicles---up to now, collecting the meteorites fell on the surface of the Earth becomes the only way of obtaining the samples of the terrestrial materials. Meteorite, the oldest fossil in the solar system, the rock sample from outside the Earth, the gift of the nature to human beings, stores the information on all of the process of the agglomeration of the nebula in the Solar System, the accumulation of the planets, and the melting and separation of asteroids. Compared with other resources on the Earth, meteorites are rare and precious: before discovery of meteorites in Antarctica and deserts, only 3000 or more pieces of meteorites, including about 100 found in China, were collected since history. Since 9 pieces of meteorites were found by Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition Team on the blue ice in the Yamato Mountain in 1969, it has been realized that the Antarctic icecap is suitable for long time reservation and there is a unique concentrating mechanism, and then around 40,000 pieces of meteorites were found in the Antarctic continent by Japanese, American, Chinese, EU and the like Antarctic Research Expedition Teams.   The Antarctic Continent has become the most meteorite concentrated area so far on the Earth.

CHINARE found four pieces of different types meteorites in the Grove Mountains Area which is more than 400 km far from the Zhongshan Station for the first time in 1998. It was confirmed that the Grove Mountains area is a new area rich in meteorites. In 1999-2006 total three science traverse teams were dispatched and 9,830 pieces of meteorites were found in the middle range of ridge, Harding Mountain, and Zakharoff Mountain in the Grove Mountains area, and this amount enables China to be in top rank of those countries owing meteorites in the world.  At present our country owns 9,834 pieces of the Antarctic meteorites, mainly stony meteorite, stony meteoric iron, and meteoric iron, among which are two Mars meteorites, one Kitchen God Star meteorite, and other rare and unique meteorites.

Mars meteorite: GRV99027, 9.97g in weight, the surface covered with a thin black melted shell, which is formed by melting due to high temperature resulting from the attrition when the meteorites crossed the atmosphere. From the broken part of the melted shell, the French gray picrite and olive in coarse granule crystal are exposed. As the first Mars meteorite collected and owned by China, it is obtained from the Grove Mountains in 1999 by CHINARE.

Mars meteorite: GRV020090, 7.54g in weight, the second Mars meteorite found by China.  It was obtained from the Grove Mountains in 2002 by CHINARE. The initial analysis shows that the rock structure, mineral constitution, basic elements, and isotope of the meteorite are the same with those of the Mars meteorites found in the world.

Up to now altogether 37 pieces of Mars meteorites have been found and reported in the world, and they are categorized to be five types. Two Mars meteorites found by China are of the comparatively rare type, lherzolites, and there are only 6 pieces in the world. Through the research on the Martian meteorites, the fundamental questions, for example, the materials making up of the crust and the mantle, the geochemistry evidence of water existing, are expected to be answered.

The meteorite samples collected from the Antarctica by China are state owned and curated in PRIC,who builds the Antarctic meteorite depository. To prevent weathering resulting from the thaw of a little of snow and ice on the surface of the meteorite, all of the meteorite samples are kept frozen. At present, several domestic relevant expedition organizations are cooperating in the classification of the samples and will submit all of the information to the Nomenclature Committee of the Meteoritical Society in order to approve the names of the meteorites.

According to the “China Ordinance on the Administration, Application, and Usage of the Antarctic Meteorite Sample”, the meteorite samples are for scientific research, and domestic and international researchers can apply for the Antarctic meteorite samples.

2.5 Sediment Depository

With special natural environment and rare human traces, the Arctic and Antarctic,undeveloped and little polluted, are the irreplaceable places for scientific observations and tests to study the global environmental changes. The polar sediments contain the relevant information on the global and regional environmental changes and, through lab analysis, the relevant information on the environmental changes recorded in the sediment can be interpreted. By testing the years of sediment structure, the time sequence of the polar environmental changes can be set up.

In accordance with the research results, on the basis of the global compare, the researches on the interactional relationship among the global hydrosphere, geosphere, biosphere, and atmosphere as well as the researches on the controlling factors and driving mechanism of the global climate and environmental changes provide an important theoretical basis for forecasting the global climate changes in the future. Therefore, the polar sediment research is an important part of the polar science research. In all of the previous CHINARE, the samples of lake sediment, soil, and shallow sea sediment, including lake sediment, soil samples, shallow sea sediment, and continental sediment, have been collected in the Arctic and Antarctic, and several research projects utilizing these samples have been completed successfully and fruitful achievements have been accomplished.

Great Wall Station Lake Sediment Column Rock Core: There are 9 Sediment Drill Cores,No.GA1-GA9,60.49 meters long. It is collected from the Fildes Peninsula,Tern Lake,Xi Lake,and Kitezh Lake,(62°13ˊ57"S,59°57ˊ14"E) at King George Island , West Antarctic. The sediment depository of PRIC preserves the parallel copy of the Sediment Drill Cores sample, and in this depository all of the samples are preserved at low temperature, a part of preserves in the Institute of Geology and Geophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences,at normal temperature.

3.Sharing and Services

Platform manages and publishes its resource information via the BIRDS website. The Platform provides the domestic and international scientists and researchers with services of information query  and online application, and also provides all relevant resource organizations with issuing sample information and data management services.

BIRDS is the initials of the name of five polar sample depositories . They are: Biology Depository ,Ice-snow Depository,Rock Depository,Deep-space  Depository(including the Antarctic meteorites),Sediment Depository。

Resources of BIRDS website are categorized as samples and specimens. Samples usually refer to those media which are not categorized or analyzed, such as snow-ice, sediment, and universal dust. The commonness information of all kinds of specimens are compiled in accordance with the Criterion on the Commonness Description of the Natural Scientific and Technical Resources  issued by the Ministry of Science and Technology, while the commonness information of all kinds of samples are compiled in accordance with the Criterion on the Commonness Description of the Polar Sample Resources, and the resources information are submitted to the E-Platform(http://www.ninr.cn) of the Ministry of Science and Technology periodically.

The scientific popularization column is set up in the BIRDS website to show people the scientific significance, the collecting process, and analysis and research of the polar samples by multimedia means such as pictures, audios, and videos Every sample depository holds exhibitions periodically, presenting the public with the biology, meteorites, and rock samples from the polar regions.

3.1 Sharing Information of Samples

Resource information query

The BIRDS website offers classified information query on the above-mentioned five resource depositories. Not necessarily being registered, the users can obtain the information on the name, type, collecting time and place, storing status, person to contact, and pictures of the samples in the depositories. In the future, the information on the usage and research results of the samples will be added so that the user can get to know the work already done to certain type of samples.

Resource information disseminate

The BIRDS website allows the depository curators of the resource organizations to edit, issue, and count the sample information by web-based management system. The curators can edit and issue newly added sample information using web browser at any sites and get the information of the hot resources in the depositories.

Web-based application for the resources

In the future, after the Polar Samples Sharing Council calibrates the relevant resource organizations and confirms the resources sharing policy and regulations, the BIRDS website will also provide the online application and acceptance for handling. Technical support for sharing of the samples provides convenience for users to get the actual samples.

3.2 Education and Outreach

The relevant polar sample depositories, by holding the polar exhibitions or lending the samples to the loca
l museums or science popularizing museums, show the public the actual mysterious biology, meteorite, and rock samples from the polar regions. Besides the science popularizing channel, the BIRDS website will also set up special column  for the exhibition, according to the demand and the content of the resources, to popularize the polar science to the public via Internet.

4.Acknowledge Format

Samples Information and Data issued by the Resource-sharing Platform of Polar Samples (http://birds.chinare.org.cn), which established by one of the National Science & Technology Infrastructures Polar Research Institute of China(PRIC) and Chinese National Arctic & Antarctic Data Center(CN-NADC).

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