The invertebrate collection is composed entirely of animals that lack a backbone. Prominent invertebrate groups include corals, anemones and jellyfish; sponges; worms; snails, clams and octopuses; crabs and shrimp; sea stars and urchins; sea squirts; and a wide variety of microscopic animals. While the invertebrate collection spans a variety of taxonomic groups (including representatives from more than 20 phyla and 700 families), it does not include insects, arachnids, centipedes or millipedes, which are housed separately in the entomology collection.

Overall, the collection holds more than 60,000 specimen lots. A lot may contain a single specimen, or it may consist of multiple individuals from a single sampling event. The collection also houses over 250 type specimens that have been referenced in original species descriptions. The majority of the collection contains invertebrates collected from marine, freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems of British Columbia and adjacent regions. A relatively small fraction of the collection represents material obtained from other parts of the world.

Together, these specimens represent over 125 years of active collecting carried out by researchers and the general public. The earliest collected specimens date to the late 1800s, and were collected largely by Dr. Charles Newcombe, one of British Columbia’s most notable natural historians. Today the collection continues to grow through donations, targeted sampling and research.

Each year, the invertebrate collection is visited by researchers, students and the general public. We regularly host visiting scientists to facilitate taxonomic and biogeographic studies, and we frequently loan collection material to other institutions. We also provide guided tours of the collection to biology classes and members of the general public by scheduled appointment.