Destructive Sampling of Museum Specimens

Researchers may request samples of skin, hair, feathers, toe pads, or bone from traditional specimens for DNA, isotope, or other analyses. However, because our collections are finite resources, one of our primary responsibilities is to protect the MVZ’s holdings to ensure that they are available for use by future generations of researchers.

Requests for destructive sampling of museum specimens should follow the same general guidelines as for tissues. These types of requests are evaluated more stringently and require strong justification. The following guidelines apply specifically to destructive uses of museum specimens:

  • Researchers must provide compelling reasons why the project cannot be completed without the use of museum specimens. This includes evidence that (a) the research question being addressed is explicitly historical and thus requires the use of museum specimens, or (b) the taxa of interest cannot be sampled directly from the field.
  • Researchers must provide evidence that they have experience with the analytical procedures (e.g., PCR amplification and sequencing of DNA from museum skins), and that the proposed studies are likely to generate usable data.

We emphasize that destructive samples are intended to supplement research materials obtained from other sources, not replace primary data collection efforts such as field sampling of extant taxa. While we strongly encourage collections-based research, our obligation to protect the MVZ’s holdings may require that some requests for destructive samples be denied.