Seatle, Washington

Preserves Fishery Science Samples

The University of Washington installs their second Spacesaver mobile storage system—20 years after their first.
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Preserving Fishery Science Samples

When the University of Washington School of Aquatics and Fishery Sciences received a grant from the National Science Foundation to bring the largest collection of otoliths (small bones found in the inner ears of fish that can be used to age the species) to their facility in Washington, the goal was to make the collection available to researchers all over the world. The collection consisted of approximately 1.9 million samples collected since the late 1970s and housed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Mechanical assist mobile racking system holding many boxes in a warehouse

There’s no question what a collection like this would mean for the School—now, they just had to find the space to store it. In addition to figuring out how to store the 12,000 boxes they had just acquired, there were also other challenges. Some of these bones were highly flammable, and NOAA had previously stored the collection in Styrofoam boxes that would actually melt if there was a fire—sealing the collections inside and destroying them forever. The current storage situation was such a hazard that NOAA was told that the fire department would not actually fight a potential fire and the entire collection would be lost.

Compact Shelving Systems

The University not only had to find a compact shelving system for the collection, but they also needed to transfer the collection from the Styrofoam containers to cardboard containers during processing.

The School had an idea. Twenty years prior, an authorized Spacesaver distributor had provided them with a high-density mobile storage system to house their fish collection—4,100 species of fish, equal to 300,000 adult fish samples in jars and large refrigerated drawers that were custom-designed. The system is still accessed on a daily basis—and due to this long-lasting solution, the University knew who could help them solve their latest storage challenge.

Mechanical assist mobile storage system holding many boxes in a warehouse

Spacesaver recommended an ActivRAC 7M, outfitted with standard industrial-grade racking, to store the massive otolith collection. The top mount rail used with the ActivRAC system is anchored right into the finished concrete, which means no raised floor or grouting was needed to install this compact shelving system. This helped keep costs down for the University and meant the room didn’t need to be altered in any way prior to the installation.

In addition to housing the 12,000 boxes of samples, the increase in storage space meant that the University was also able to plan for 5,000 additional boxes. The racking of the compact shelving system is currently installed at 10 feet high, and has the capacity for even more vertical shelving once the fire suppression system is upgraded.

Currently, the 12,000 boxes of samples fit easily in the new ActivRAC 7M system and has room to house upwards of 17,000 boxes. Because the racking system is only ten feet high, there is also room to add shelving vertically.

The consolidation and addition of this otolith collection makes the University’s School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences one of the largest fish collections in the world with approximately 10 million objects. “The room is crammed full of these amazing compact shelves that easily roll back and forth, and we are able to fit all of these boxes with plenty of room for growth,” says the School’s Ichthyology Collections Manager, Katherine Maslenikov.

Our ActivRAC systems aren’t just for industrial or warehouse applications. Take a look at how ActivRAC was able to store 6,000 lb. torpedoes for the Naval Undersea Museum in Seattle, Washington.

Mechanical assist mobile storage system holding many boxes

ActivRAC eliminates aisles in your storage space by mounting pallet racking or shelving on carriages that move back and forth on rails anchored to the floor. The carriages have a load capacity ranging from 7,000 lbs. up to 30,000 lbs.

Canvass the Campus

Universities are like small cities, with a variety of facilities from libraries and sports arenas to police departments and hospitals. That’s why campus space management is so important, download our guide for more information and ideas.