Tissue Loan Policy

The MVZ provides 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, cataloging, and maintaining these samples. Information on our holdings may be requested initially by e-mail or by querying Arctos. All requests are approved by the Curator(s) in charge of the collection housing the specific tissues.

Requests for sampling of MVZ tissues or specimens is an explicit acknowledgment that the researcher supports legitimate scientific collecting, and that they value the 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.

MVZ-affiliated researchers should submit the MVZ In-House Tissue Use Form (.docx) to their advisor for approval. External requests must be submitted in writing on institutional letterhead (student requests should be co-signed by their advisor), and should contain a brief summary of the research including other sources of material and justification for why samples are needed from the MVZ. 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.

Requests should also include information on the nature of material needed, including taxon, number of samples or specific MVZ catalog numbers, geographic location (if relevant) and desired method of transport (e.g., frozen, 95% ethanol). If the method of transport is not specified, tissues will be sent in ethanol or buffer.

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 shipped internationally. Recipients may also be asked to provide an account number for payment of domestic loans.

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 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.


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 the recipient’s institution.

All international shipments must be declared to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Researchers should allow a minimum of two 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
  • the 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 & 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 or another online data repository so that they are accessible to other researchers. Citations of MVZ cataloged specimens should use the GUID number format (in GenBank, this is entered into the 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 curatorial staff contacts). The GenBank Bulkloader Template for Arctos 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).