Senior Museum Scientist Terri Barclay preparing a salvaged bird specimen

Overview of Specimen Donations

Growth of the MVZ collections depends on donations of specimens from MVZ researchers, the general public through salvage, and external organizations including zoos, wildlife rehabilitation centers, government agencies, airports, and other museums. Contact a MVZ Staff Curator for additional information.

All specimens must be accompanied by copies of permits or other documentation showing that the material was obtained legally by the donor. In cases where the donation consists of older material that lacks such documentation, the donor must submit a letter to the Museum at the time of the donation that indicates the nature and source of material and that explains the reason for lack of permit documentation. While the regulations differ according to taxonomic group, species, and status (e.g., threatened/endangered), it is illegal to live-trap, collect, or salvage wildlife without a permit. 

Researchers and organizations that salvage specimens should include salvage under their permits. The MVZ also accepts salvaged specimens from the general public under the museum’s permits, if they were collected in California and are not threatened or endangered. The public cannot legally retain specimens without the required permits.

Specimens should be accompanied by field notes, data tags, data sheets, or digital spreadsheets. Original field notes are preferred, especially for MVZ-affiliated researchers. Donations are most valuable if they have information on where and when they were collected, who collected them, and the circumstance under which they were collected (e.g., field trip, hit window, killed by cat, dead on road, etc.). Field-collected specimens should have geographic coordinates in addition to a descriptive locality. For detailed information regarding localities, see the MVZ Guide for Recording Localities in the Field (PDF).

MVZ Curators retain the right to discard (through incineration) specimens that are in poor condition or lack data. These decisions are made on a case-by-case basis. 

Occasionally, donors may wish to claim specimen donations as a tax deduction. Museum staff are not responsible for appraising the value of specimen donations for tax or other purposes. In these cases, the donor must submit a letter to the Director indicating the number and kind of specimens donated, their estimated value, and how this appraisal was obtained (e.g., by a certified taxidermist). The Museum then will submit this letter to the UC Development Office, who will provide the donor with a receipt.

Accessioning and cataloging will follow established procedures of the Museum. Donated material and associated data will be made available for research, education, or public exhibit according to the mission and policies of the Museum and Regents, except by prior signed agreement between the donor and the Museum. Salvaged specimens are used in our MVZ Undergraduate Program for education in vertebrate anatomy, evolution, and diversity.

Freezing Specimens

Whole specimens should be kept frozen with their data until they can be transferred to the MVZ. Salvaged specimens should be frozen in a ziplock freezer bag or tightly sealed bag (air removed as much as possible) until it can be transferred to the MVZ. 

Frozen specimens should go into one of two freezers:

  • MVZ Prep Lab walk-in freezer: Specimens can go into an individual’s personal bin or a general bin to be accessioned. MVZ researchers can ask for a personal bin to store specimens until they are prepared by that researcher.
  • MVZ Chest Freezer: This -20°C freezer is located inside the cold room on the third floor of the museum (near the southwest corner).

Terri Barclay should be notified of any specimens that are put into a freezer but are not in a personal bin.

Donation Forms