Sending Us Samples?

The following information will help you get your samples to us quickly and safely. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions.

Biologica Environmental Services

488-F Bay Street
Victoria BC V8T 5H2

Or for free pick up ship to:

4196 Glanford Ave
Victoria, BC V8Z 4B6

Express Air International
(Victoria Airport (YYJ))

North Saanich, BC V8L 5V4

Courier Services we
generally use:


Packaging samples:

  • Samples must be packed in coolers, totes, or strong, rigid boxes
  • Jars should be taped closed and/or sealed with electrical tape
  • Include COC (Biologica Chain of Custody Form – Fillable) and MSDS documents
  • Add additional packaging material to keep jars upright and secure in shipping container


Samples collected in the field must be prepared for shipment and analysis in order to avoid degradation and to retain sample integrity (avoidance of interactions among organisms that might cause changes in the community prior to analysis). Different types of samples require different preservation protocols and in addition to the overview below, if you would like additional guidance, please contact us.

Whenever formaldehyde, formalin, or ethanol are being handled or shipped we recommend that the appropriate health and safety protocols outlined in each substance’s MSDS are closely followed.
Please find up-to-date Health and Safety documentation for each preservative below:

We recommend benthos collected from sediment samples be fixed in a solution of 10% formalin (~4% formaldehyde) following collection and prior to shipment. Although benthic invertebrate samples can be preserved in ethanol we do not recommend this practice as formalin is a “fixative” and not just a preservative. Its use creates more robust and high-quality specimens. Soft-bodied organisms such as annelids are more easily identifiable when preserved in formalin than organisms preserved in ethanol. Samples containing primarily organisms with exoskeletons (e.g. freshwater benthos, zooplankton) may be preserved in ethanol with minimal effect on the data.

Benthic invertebrate samples must remain in formalin solution for at least 24 hours at which point they are transferred into a 75% ethanol solution for analysis and long-term storage.

Different types of samples require different preservation protocols.

  • Field Preservation of benthic invertebrate samples

    Biologica benthic invertebrate samples are typically collected using 1 L plastic (HDPE) screw-top jars. Following screening, jars are filled no more than halfway with sample, then preservative (37% formaldehyde or formalin) and water (if necessary) added such that the solution within each jar is 5-10% formalin. In cases where samples are rich in organic debris, field staff must ensure the solution is as close to 10% as possible.

    Ideally samples should be preserved throughout the day, especially in warm weather. Samples left unpreserved start to degrade more quickly, which leads to lower quality organisms.

  • Zooplankton and Ichthyoplankton

    Formalin should be added to zooplankton and ichthyoplankton samples shortly after collection to reach a concentration of 5-10% in solution. Zooplankton and ichthyoplankton samples are transferred into 75% ethanol solution for analysis and long-term storage after no less than 24 hours in formalin solution. For collection of freshwater zooplankton we recommend a piece of Alka-seltzer tablet (usually a quarter to a half of one tablet will suffice) be added to each sample jar and allowed to dissolve prior to addition of formalin solution.

  • Phytoplankton

    Phytoplankton samples must be transported in opaque jars as light penetration can change sample composition, even in the presence of preservative. Water samples used for phytoplankton analysis must be preserved in acid Lugol’s solution, which is a combination of Lugol’s solution and glacial acetic acid. Approximately 0.5 – 1.0 mL of Lugol’s should be added for every 100 mL of sample, and the photo below can be used as a guide for final solution colour following addition of preservative. The center settling chamber is well preserved, whereas the chambers on the left and right have too little, and too much Lugol’s respectively.

    Lugol's Comparison

    Field staff are encouraged to leave enough room in the bottle to accommodate addition of preservative, as well as to reduce spilling when containers are opened. To ensure recovery of quality data, do not fill phytoplankton sample bottles to the brim. Following preservation, phytoplankton samples do not need to be refrigerated although they should be kept away from heat sources.

  • Fish Stomachs

    Fish stomachs should be either removed from fish and preserved in a solution of 10% formalin following collection, or fish should be frozen whole and refrigerated at all times during shipment.

For more information on taxonomic analysis, please consult our Services page.

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