Curatorial FAQs

What are the rules for access to the collections?
Anyone (MVZ or non-MVZ researchers) interested in accessing the collections should make arrangements through a curator. Researchers should not give tours of the collections without prior approval and arrangement. Students and post-docs should not remove any specimens from the collections without first speaking with a Staff Curator. MVZ Curators will be responsible for removing and reinstalling specimens.

What is the procedure for bringing specimens into the Museum?
We have strict rules for intake of specimens due to pest concerns. Please do not bring any specimen parts (e.g., feathers, skins, skeletons, etc.) directly to your offices from the outside. All skin and skeletal material that comes into the Museum, either from a collecting trip or as a loan, must be unpacked and frozen in the Prep Lab before being put into a research or collection case on the third floor. Uncleaned skeletal material should be frozen for at least one week to kill pests. Please alert the Prep Lab Manager to any uncleaned skeletal material that needs to be dealt with. For fluid specimens, inform the appropriate Curator and bring the items into the Herp Lab or the storage area (VLSB 3115). All specimens must be labeled with name, date, and contact person, and labels for fluid specimens also must indicate the type of fluid (e.g., formalin, alcohol). Unlabeled material will be removed! Visit Quarantine for more information.

How can I arrange for loan or shipment of specimens/tissues?
All specimen-related shipments must be arranged through a Curator to ensure that all paperwork and permits are in order. Permits must be secured in advance of any international shipments. If you are leaving Berkeley and need specimens/tissues sent to you permanently, make arrangements in advance for payment and for someone to pack and send the material. If you are having specimens sent to you, make arrangements in advance with a Curator for collection storage space. All loans from other institutions should be made to the appropriate faculty curator, not to you personally. Loans should not be transferred to another university or museum without permission from the lending institution.

Where can I store my research specimens?
The MVZ provides space for storage of uncataloged research specimens, including those on loan from other institutions. Specimens should not be kept in non-designated storage areas. After contacting the appropriate Curator, fluid specimens may be stored in VLSB 3115 on a labeled shelf. Cleaned skin or skeletal material may be stored in cases in VLSB 3140. All specimens must be labeled with data and loan information if they are from another institution.

Where can I store my research tissues?
The MVZ provides space for storage of uncataloged research tissues, including those on loan from other institutions. Researchers should discuss tissue storage needs and space with a Staff Curator in charge of the relevant collection. Tissues should be stored in polycarbonate boxes labeled with lab tape (never in cardboard boxes, plastic bags, or other miscellaneous containers). No containers should be stored on top of chest freezer racks because it impedes access to boxes in racks.

The chest ultracold freezer located in the DNA extraction lab (VLSB 4141) is intended for tissues or stocks that must be kept in ultralow storage and are being actively used by lab researchers.

Research tissues or DNA extracts that do not require ultralow storage may be kept in the walk-in freezer/cold room on the fourth floor or in the walk-in cold room on the third floor.

What if I find an error in the specimen database (Arctos)?
MVZ curatorial staff try to keep the specimen database as updated and accurate as possible. If you find a problem (e.g., taxonomic identification, mislabeled or misnumbered specimen, locality error), e-mail a Staff Curator.

What if I see a pest in the collection?
MVZ curatorial staff are constantly on the lookout for possible pest infestations. If you find a pest anywhere in the museum, including your office, try to capture it in a vial and immediately contact a curatorial staff member. Do not just crush and throw it out@ The identity of the pest is important to our pest control program.

How do I use specimens in the collection?
Always check with the appropriate staff curator first before using specimens, including tissues. When taking specimens from the main collections, leave a blue loan slip with all information filled out on the tray or shelf. To receive tissues, see Using the Tissue Collection. For ethanol specimens, do not return these jars to the collections yourself. Put them on the metal table in the Herp Lab and notify Carol Spencer (atrox[at]

What are the rules for working in the Herp Lab?
The Herp Lab is open to any MVZ researcher by prior arrangement through Carol Spencer (atrox10[at] Before working in the lab, you must read and sign the Standard Operating Procedures sheet (next to the phone outside the Herp Lab) and receive brief training in use of the lab from Carol. All containers with fluid specimens in stages of preparation must be labeled with the fluid, date, and person responsible. Unlabeled material is liable to be discarded. The use of formalin is restricted to the fume hood