The Radioactive Collection contains more than 3,000 mammal specimens and associated genetic materials that are radioactive due to environmental exposure. Most of these specimens were collected from the Chornobyl (Chernobyl) region of Ukraine, where one of the world’s worst nuclear power plant disasters occurred on 26 April 1986. The meltdown at Chornobyl resulted in extremely radioactive sites near the power plant, as well as substantial areas in Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia that exhibited varying degrees of elevated background radiation.
Researchers from Texas Tech University (TTU), along with Ukrainian collaborators, began collecting specimens from the Chornobyl site and the surrounding areas in 1994; they have conducted more than 50 expeditions to the region since that time. Texas Tech faculty and students have authored more than 60 scientific publications resulting from this research.
The Chornobyl disaster has provided a virtual laboratory for scientists to study the effects of multi-generational radiation exposure on plants, animals, and ecosystems. By archiving the biodiversity of the region over many years, the NSRL Radioactive Collection provides researchers from around the world with opportunities to investigate the biological consequences of chronic exposure to radiation in the environment.
Establishing a collection of radioactive specimens and tissues at the NSRL created a unique set of curatorial issues, including the need to provide special training for the staff and to isolate the radioactive voucher specimens and tissues from the other NSRL collections.
The 2015 NSF grant to convert the GRC to liquid nitrogen storage included a dedicated liquid nitrogen freezer specifically for housing and processing the genetic resources associated with this special collection.