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NCMA Algae Starter Culture Assurance

Our dedicated team of curators ensures our algae are carefully maintained as either cryopreserved stocks stored in liquid nitrogen vapor or as serially transferred liquid batch cultures. The liquid cultures are grown in temperature-controlled, illuminated growth chambers at four different growth temperatures, with three replicates for each strain to ensure back up. These chambers are located in a modern, secure, state-of-the-art facility within Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in East Boothbay, Maine. Our chambers are monitored 24 hours a day, 7 days a week via electronic and radio-transmitted security systems. If there is as little as a 2˚C temperature change in any of the chambers, one of our curators will be called at any time of the day or night to move the cultures to a safe environment. All of our cultures are grown on a 13:11 light:dark cycle and at a light level sub-saturating for growth.

An algae starter culture is defined by the NCMA as 2 x 15 mL tubes of a dilute but exponentially growing culture of the algal strain of choice. Strain details can be found on the strain record page on the NCMA website. For a definition of our terms, please see the Culturing Resources page.

When shipping the strain, our goal is for the customer to receive enough viable material so the strain can be subcultured (transferred) and grown at the customer’s facility. We highly recommend growing the strain in the conditions stated on the strain information sheet, provided with the culture ordered, so as to minimize additional stress on the culture.

Prior to shipment, cultures are examined microscopically to determine health, authenticity, and purity. Mass cultures are tested for contamination, specifically bacterial and fungal, within a week of the scheduled ship date.  We define a healthy culture as one that behaves and looks consistent with its species (e.g., if a flagellate it will be actively motile). We only ship healthy cultures and do not count cells prior to shipment. We generally do not ship dense starter cultures because, in our experience, they do not survive well during transit.

Once the shipment leaves NCMA,  we cannot guarantee the health or cell count of our strains since it is out of our control. The cultures in the shipment can be subjected to environmental stress. We do, however, pack the cultures based on an assessment of time-of-year, current weather conditions, weather at final destination, and strain growth-temperature to help ensure survival.

When the culture is received, let it equilibrate to the temperature on the strain information sheet and expose it to dim light first (contact us for advice concerning individual strain tolerance). Then, transfer the culture into growth medium pre-equilibrated to that same temperature no more than six hours (ideally sooner) after receiving it. Place it in “normal” light at this point. We recommend keeping half of your culture untouched in your incubator should your subcultured portion not grow. Once your strain is established, temperature can be adjusted to suit your needs and as your strain allows.

If a starter culture arrives in an unsatisfactory condition, please inform the NCMA in writing within two weeks of receipt. We will normally replace the strain (< or = 1L cultures) free of charge, however, the customer will be responsible for the shipping fee.