Public Release: 

Columbia U to develop first international registry of solid earth samples

The Earth Institute at Columbia University

The Earth Institute at Columbia University, NYC-A team from the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University has received funding from the National Science Foundation to develop the first international digital registry to provide unique identification of solid earth samples.

"The Solid Earth Sample Registry (SESAR) will address the urgent need for unique sample identifiers so that sample-based data can be shared and preserved," says project leader Kerstin Lehnert. "The study of solid earth samples is key to our knowledge of Earth's dynamical systems and evolution. Inconsistent or redundant naming of samples has hampered the ability of the whole field to share and integrate data. SESAR will be a big step forward in the development of a geoscience cyberinfrastructure."

Under the new system, each sample will obtain a globally unique serial number, the International Geo Sample Number IGSN, when it is registered in the system. Sample registration will include submission of information about the sample such as collection location, collection time and collector/owner. The system will solve a longstanding, major problem in the geosciences in which samples lose their "identity" as their names get changed as aliquots are passed from one investigator to another. It will facilitate sharing of data, linking of databases, and cooperation among investigators at different institutions. Other relational databases have been established recently that provide a vehicle for linking disparate data, but none has been able to overcome the problem of confused sample names.

The SESAR system will be ready for use by the end of 2004, according to Lehnert. Updates on its development will be available at


The Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, a member of The Earth Institute at Columbia University, is one of the world's leading research centers examining the planet from its core to its atmosphere, across every continent and every ocean. From global climate change to earthquakes, volcanoes, environmental hazards and beyond, Observatory scientists provide the basic knowledge of Earth systems needed to inform the future health and habitability of our planet.

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