The Museum of Vertebrate Zoology provides loans of skins, skeletons, and fluid-preserved specimens from its collections for scientific research. The MVZ does not loan bird eggs and nests or bird and mammal type specimens. Loans of type specimens of amphibians and reptiles are made only in special instances. Researchers interested in tissues loans or destructive sampling should read those policies carefully before making a request.

Specimen loans are made only to faculty, curators, and permanent research staff at recognized institutions with facilities to properly house and care for specimens. Individuals who are not affiliated with such an institution may request a loan of material only if they have made prior arrangements with an appropriate person for housing of specimens, and if that person agrees in writing to receive the specimens on the researcher’s behalf. Invasive procedures are not permitted without express written permission.

General Policy

  • All requests must be in writing. Letters should be submitted on institutional letterhead to the appropriate Curator. Requests from students or posdoctoral researchers must be co-signed by a faculty advisor. Information on our holdings may be obtained by querying Arctos.
  • Requests should contain a brief summary of the research and proposed use of the material, including objectives of the project, its potential scientific value, methods of analysis, and a list of specimens requested by MVZ catalog number.
  • All requests must be approved by an MVZ Curator. As a general rule, 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). The Museum has a standard moratorium on shipping loans between Thanksgiving and the New Year.
  • If permission is granted to remove specimen parts (e.g., reproductive organs, stomach contents) those parts must be labeled with the MVZ catalog number by the researcher and returned with the specimens. Any slide preparations (e.g., SEM stubs, histological, karyological) are to be returned properly labeled. Removal of hair or skin samples for molecular analyses are considered invasive procedures and written permission must be obtained in advance (see Destructive Loans).
  • The borrower must sign and return a copy of the loan invoice to acknowledge safe receipt of specimens. Specimen damage that occurs during transit should be reported immediately. The borrower is liable for damage that occurs during handling of specimens.
  • Loans are generally made for a period of six months. Requests for loan extensions, and for permission to transfer specimens from one institution to another, must be made in writing.
  • Unless otherwise requested, domestic loans will be shipped ground via Federal Express or UPS (air for Alaska and Hawaii) and international loans will be sent air via Federal Express. Recipients must provide an account number for payment if the loan is to be shipped internationally. Recipients may also provide an account number for payment of domestic loans. Loans to countries where commercial delivery services are unreliable will be granted only when specimens can be hand-carried in both directions.
  • When specimens are returned to the MVZ, they should be shipped in the same container, using the same or a comparable carrier (where package can be tracked), and insured for the same value as they were originally sent.
  • In the case of re-identification of specimens, the new designations should be provided to MVZ curatorial staff when specimens are returned to the Museum. These data can be provided on a copy of the original loan invoice, or in a separate list that contains the MVZ catalog numbers and respective new identifications (either in text or spreadsheet format).


  • For international loans, the borrower is responsible for providing copies of all relevant foreign import permits. Likewise, the borrower is responsible for providing copies of all relevant foreign export permits when specimens are returned to the MVZ. International loans should not be returned to the MVZ without prior arrangement with the collection curators, to ensure that all necessary permit paperwork accompanies the shipment. If permits are not necessary, that should be stated in writing at the time of the request.
  • International requests for specimens (or specimen parts) 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 is registered with the country’s CITES authority.
  • Requests from U.S. researchers for specimens (or specimen parts) 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.

Citing MVZ Specimens in Publications

The MVZ must be acknowledged in any publication that results from use of its specimens. In addition to a general acknowledgement given to the “Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, University of California, Berkeley,” specimens must be cited by the individual museum catalog number or three-part GUID format (see Citing MVZ Specimens in Publications & GenBank) in a table or supplementary material. If specimens are uncataloged, it is best to work with a Staff Curator well in advance of publication to obtain catalog numbers for use in the paper. However, if that is not possible, 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.