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Tissue Grant Policy

The Museum of Vertebrate Zoology (MVZ) houses a collection of over 90,000 samples of tissue, blood, and protein extracts preserved from amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. The majority of samples are associated with vouchers in the MVZ specimen collections. Although most tissues are frozen, the MVZ also maintains a growing collection of ethanol or buffer-preserved tissues.

Unlike traditional specimens, tissue samples are eventually depleted with use. Thus, MVZ Curators have formulated the following guidelines to ensure that destructive sampling does not exhaust these limited resources. These guidelines also apply to destructive sampling of traditional museum specimens (e.g., skin and skeletal material) for biochemical, isotope, or other kinds of analyses. For additional information on requests for destructive sampling of museum specimens, see our Destructive Sampling Policy.

In developing these guidelines, consideration was given to policies instituted by other major tissue collections. Our overall goal is to preserve the value of the collections for present and future use.

General Philosophy

The MVZ will provide limited grants of tissue from its collections to qualified researchers. Such grants are intended to supplement material from wild or captive animals obtained independently by users of the collections. Implicit in its use of the term "grant" is the understanding that users will abide by certain requirements. In turn, the MVZ will absorb the high cost of obtaining, housing, cataloguing, and maintaining these samples.

Requests for sampling of MVZ tissues or specimens is an explicit acknowledgment that the researcher supports legitimate scientific collecting, and that he/she values he time and effort that goes into collecting, preparing, and maintaining museum collections. In exchange for granting these samples for scientific study, we may occasionally ask researchers to provide verbal or written support of scientific collecting and our collections.

How to request a tissue grant

All requests for grants of genetic material must be in writing. Letters should be submitted on institutional letterhead to the appropriate Curator; those from students must be co-signed by the faculty advisor. Information on our holdings may be requested initially by e-mail or by querying our database.

Requests for tissue grants should contain:
  • A brief summary of the research, including other sources of material and a justification for why samples are needed from the MVZ collections. This statement should specifically address the following:
    1. objectives of the project and its potential scientific value
    2. feasibility and time frame of the study
    3. availability of material from wild populations or captive sources, including the researcher’s own efforts to collect samples for the project
    4. method(s) of analysis
    5. qualifications of the investigator(s) to perform the laboratory work
    6. availability of funding to complete the project.
  • Information on the nature of material needed, including taxon, number of samples or specific MVZ catalog numbers, geographic location if relevent, and desired method of transport (e.g., frozen, 95% ethanol). Tissues will be sent in ethanol or buffer if the method of transport is not specified.

Tissue loans are typically sent via Federal Express. Recipients must provide an account number for payment if the loan is to be shipped on dry ice or internationally. Recipients may also provide an account number for payment of domestic loans.

  • Requests for tissues must be accompanied by copies of all requisite permits. For foreign researchers, this includes a copy of any import permit required by the foreign government. If no permit is needed, the researcher must state such in writing at the time that the tissue request is submitted.
  • Requests from foreign researchers for tissue of species regulated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (e.g., CITES-species, endangered species, marine mammals, migratory birds) will not be processed without the proper U.S. export permits; species listed only under CITES may be exported under a Certificate of Scientific Exchange if the receiving institution possesses such a certificate.
  • Requests from U.S. researchers for tissue of species regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture must be accompanied by a copy of a USDA transport permit, issued to the recipient or his/her institution.
  • All international shipments must be declared to the U.S.Fish and Wildlife Service. Researchers should allow a minimum of 2 weeks for clearance of an international shipment.
Review of Requests
Requests will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis according to the following criteria:
  • The kind and extent of request, including whether it duplicates previous efforts.
  • Availability of material from wild or captive sources, and efforts by the investigator(s) to obtain such material.
  • Amount of material in the MVZ collections.
  • Rarity and replaceability of the samples (i.e., distribution and abundance of the taxon relative to the location of the user).
  • Demonstrated ability of the investigator(s) to perform the work and complete the project.
  • Financial support for the project.

Requests are processed in the order that they are received by curatorial staff. Although we try to process them as quickly as possible, we ask that researchers submit their request at least one month in advance of when they need the material (longer for international or large loans that require more time and/or permit paperwork).

Citing MVZ Specimens in Publications and GenBank

The MVZ must be acknowledged in any publication that results from use of its tissues or traditional specimens. In addition to a general acknowledgement given to the "Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, University of California, Berkeley", specimens or tissues must be cited by the individual museum catalog number in a table or supplementary material. If specimens are uncataloged at the time of publication, then the specimen citation may refer to a collector or preparator number. A PDF of the publication must be sent to the Staff Curator in charge of the collection.

Sequences obtained from MVZ tissues or traditional specimens must be entered into GenBank ( so that they are accessible to other researchers. For sequences of MVZ cataloged specimens, enter the specimen in GUID number format in the GenBank specimen_voucher field.

institution:collection code:catalog number
where Bird, Herp, Mamm are the collection codes for birds, amphibians and reptiles, and mammals respectively

Researchers must also submit GenBank numbers to the MVZ Staff Curator in charge of the collection (see MVZ Directory for contact information). The GenBank Bulkloader Template file should be used to submit these data for loading into the MVZ database (see instructions and example in first worksheet, complete and return second worksheet).

General Policies
  • Tissues received from the MVZ collections, or DNA extracted from these samples, cannot be transferred to a third party without express written permission by an MVZ Curator.
  • Individual Curators may request tissues in exchange for those received from the MVZ collections. These may include vouchered samples for permanent disposition in the MVZ, or exchanges of loans of tissues from other institutions.
  • Tissues deposited in MVZ should be well-labeled and contain complete data. In addition, voucher specimen information (including institution acronym and catalog number) must be provided, along with copies of relevant collecting permits or other documentation.
  • Individual Curators may request the return of unused tissues or DNA extracts upon completion of the study.
  • The Museum has a standard moratorium on shipping loans between Thanksgiving and the New Year.

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