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Division of Fishes Loan Policies

Data and Specimen Policies for the Division of Fishes at The Field Museum

The Field Museum Division of Fishes houses one of the largest collections of fishes in the world with over 1,700,000 specimens, 130,000 lots, 10,000 species, 4,500 tissue samples, 3,500 skeletons, 1,400 nominal types, and 450 families. Fishes welcomes requests by qualified researchers for use of or access to specimens of any variety from its collections. The following guidelines and policies are in place to assist our Users (i.e., loan or grant recipients or visitors) and us in the evaluation of loan requests and grant proposals.

Prior to requesting any loans, please consult the Fishes collection database for our current holdings. More detailed inquiries, specific data inquiries, and questions concerning specimens in our backlog can be directed to any member of the Fishes curatorial or professional staff. Email is the preferred method of communication.

Please be aware that by agreeing to receive Field Museum specimen loans or grants, the User is agreeing to abide by the rules set forth below.

The Division of Fishes continues to receive an ever-increasing number of loan requests. These loan requests generally fall into three categories, which are treated separately: traditional specimen loans (wet skeletons, wet alcoholic specimens, or dry skeletons); traditional specimen loans with some form of destructive sampling (e.g., clearing and staining, removal of genitalia, gill arches, stomach contents, or pharyngeal teeth); tissue sample grants (including requests for the excision of small pieces of muscle or bone from formalin fixed or dry skeletal specimens for biochemical analysis).

Ideally, Users will provide Fishes with the title and other pertinent information of any publication that results from the use of Field Museum specimens. Please be aware that the number, diversity, and quality of the publications that our collections contribute to are critical for our records. These data are used to justify the continued funding of the collection and to aid our attempts to fund improvements to the collection and its associated databases. In exchange for loaning or granting these specimens for research, we may also call on you to provide verbal or written support of scientific collecting and our collections.

We always appreciate receiving a hard copy or PDF reprint of publications using/referring to Museum collections for the Seth E. Meek Memorial Ichthyological Library. These can be mailed or emailed to any member of the curatorial or professional staff.


Traditional Specimen Loan Policy for the Division of Fishes

Requests for specimen loans must contain the following information:

  • brief summary of the proposed research with sufficient detail to allow us to assess its scientific merit
  • number of and identity of specimens desired
  • confirmation that you have proper conditions for the handling of museum specimens (e.g., proper containers, preservation liquids)
  • assurance that you have (or have access to) proper packing equipment/supplies and training in hazardous materials shipping to abide by all IATA regulations

Destructive sampling, dissection, and invasive procedures (e.g., clearing and staining) are strictly prohibited for these loans without prior permission from the curatorial or professional staff of the Division of Fishes. That being said, we welcome you to approach us about your needs for invasive procedures; we just need to approve the procedures beforehand.

Traditional specimen loan policies:

  • Loans are made only to permanent staff members of institutions.
  • Loan requests from students, postdocs, etc. 
must be cosigned by the major professor, advisor, or curator who takes responsibility for the proper storage and timely return of the specimens.
  • Loaned material cannot be transferred to another institution without permission from the Division of Fishes.
  • Loans are typically made for a period of one year.
  • Loan extensions are possible, and they should be requested by email.
  • Upon receiving a loan, the User must immediately sign and return a copy of the included loan invoice to acknowledge safe 
receipt of specimens. Any damage during shipping should be detailed on the form at the time of receipt.
  • Specimen returns must be packed in the same way they were received and returned by the same method by which they were shipped.
  • Alcoholic specimens being returned to the Museum must be packed according to IATA regulations.
  • Please inform us when you are returning loaned material, so we can ensure that it arrives safely at The Field Museum.
  • Any taxonomic re-identifications or type designations should be communicated at the time the loan is returned or earlier. 

  • Users must acknowledge The Field Museum Division of Fishes or FMNH and pertinent staff in all publications or web documents in which museum specimens are used.
  • Manuscript type names will not be assigned in our electronic collection catalog or website until publication of the name.
  • Users should report the title and other pertinent information of any publication that results from the use of Field Museum specimens.
  • We would appreciate receiving electronic copies of all digital images taken or digital copies of illustrations made of Field Museum specimens. These images should be emailed to any member of the curatorial or professional staff. They will be entered into the database, and the photographer/illustrator and relevant publications will be noted. You may request that these images not be made publicly available for a designated period of time.

Destructive Specimen Loan Policy for the Division of Fishes

Requests for specimen loans must contain the following information:

  • brief summary of the proposed research with sufficient detail to allow us to assess its scientific merit
  • number of and identity of specimens desired
  • confirmation that you have proper conditions for the handling of museum specimens (e.g., proper containers, preservation liquids)
  • assurance that you have (or have access to) proper packing equipment/supplies and training in hazardous materials shipping to abide by all IATA regulations
  • detailed explanation of the procedures that will be undertaken
  • specific number of specimens/species that will be altered
  • justification of the need for sampling and specimen alteration

Destructive specimen loan policies:

  • Loans are made only to permanent staff members of institutions.
  • Loan requests from students, postdocs, etc. 
must be cosigned by the major professor, advisor, or curator who takes responsibility for the proper storage and timely return of the specimens.
  • Loaned material cannot be transferred to another institution without permission from the Division of Fishes.
  • Loans are typically made for a period of one year.
  • Loan extensions are possible, and they should be requested by email.
  • Upon receiving a loan, the User must immediately sign and return a copy of the included loan invoice to acknowledge safe 
receipt of specimens. Any damage during shipping should be detailed on the form at the time of receipt.
  • Specimen returns must be packed in the same way they were received and returned by the same method by which they were shipped.
  • Alcoholic specimens being returned to the Museum must be packed according to IATA regulations.
  • Please inform us when you are returning loaned material, so we can ensure that it arrives safely at The Field Museum.
  • Any taxonomic re-identifications or type designations should be communicated at the time the loan is returned or earlier. 

  • Users must acknowledge The Field Museum Division of Fishes or FMNH and pertinent staff in all publications or web documents in which museum specimens are used.
  • All "byproducts" of research such as histological slides, skeletal preparations, stomach contents, etc. remain the property of The Field Museum, and must be returned with the remainder of the loan.
  • Any “byproduct” must be carefully labeled or otherwise positively numbered with the FMNH number of the 
lot from which it was removed.
  • Users should report the title and other pertinent information of any publication that results from the use of Field Museum specimens.
  • We would appreciate receiving electronic copies of all digital images taken or digital copies of illustrations made of Field Museum specimens. These images should be emailed to any member of the curatorial or professional staff. They will be entered into the database, and the photographer/illustrator and relevant publications will be noted. You may request that these images not be made publicly available for a designated period of time.

Tissue or Extract Grant Policy for the Division of Fishes

The Division of Fishes at The Field Museum maintains a tissue and DNA extract collection. Samples are typically associated with vouchers in the Fishes’ collection. Samples are either frozen or fluid-preserved. Most samples have had at least temporary storage in a preservative (e.g., DMSO, 95% ethanol), even if they are currently housed in the Museum’s cryogenic facility. The Division provides DNA extracts and tissue samples to qualified researchers for the express purpose of supplementing material from other collections, wild populations, and captive specimens.

Although discouraged, researchers may request samples of muscle, organ, or bone from formalin-fixed traditional specimens for analysis. Users must justify the need and propose the least harmful method for destructive sampling. Because these procedures are challenging, we may ask for proof of prior success and/or severely limit requests.

Unfortunately, our access to dry ice for shipping frozen specimens is limited, so tissues are typically sent in ethanol or buffer unless special arrangements are made. Requests for shipments in dry ice are only entertained for specimens that have never been fluid preserved. In these rare cases, the User will be responsible for all costs associated with the purchase and shipment of tissue samples on dry ice.

Because the use of subsampled tissue samples is inherently destructive and a limited resource, we have specific procedures for tissue grant requests. We follow the terminology introduced by other collections of genetic resources and use the term "grant" instead of loan to apply to tissue requests. This terminology is used to make it clear that we are granting use of the tissue sample for the User’s laboratory alone. As such, granted tissues, granted extracts, or extractions performed in the User’s laboratories must not be transferred to a third party without permission from the Fishes curatorial staff.

Requests for tissue grants must contain the following information and be written as a proposal:

  • brief summary of the proposed research with sufficient detail to allow us to assess its scientific merit
  • justification for, number of, and identity of specimens desired
  • statement on efforts made to secure samples from wild populations or other collections
  • confirmation of the availability of funding to complete proposed project
  • demonstration that the techniques being used and data being gathered will likely be successful and that the User is proficient in said techniques
  • statement on methods to be used (e.g., traditional Sanger sequencing, next generation sequencing) to help us ensure the proper tissue sizes are sent
  • estimate of the time frame of the study

Tissue grant policies:

  • Tissues, extracts, or extractions performed in the User’s laboratory must not be transferred to a third party without permission from The Field Museum Fishes curatorial staff.
  • Grants are made only to permanent staff members of institutions.
  • Grants submitted by students, postdocs, etc. must be cosigned by the major professor, advisor, or curator who takes responsibility for ensuring that the tissue grant policies are followed.
  • The Field Museum acronym and voucher number must identify and be kept with Museum supplied material during all stages of lab work.
  • Upon receiving the granted materials, the User must immediately sign and return a copy of the included loan/grant invoice to acknowledge safe receipt of samples. We will only close the “open” loan/grant when the invoice is returned.
  • Users must acknowledge The Field Museum Division of Fishes or FMNH and pertinent staff in all publications or web documents in which museum specimens are used.
  • Users should report the title and other pertinent information of any publication that results from the use of Field Museum specimens.
  • Sequence data from Field Museum specimens must be made available on GenBank (or equivalent public database).
  • The Field Museum voucher number (including FMNH acronym) must accompany sequences submitted to GenBank (or equivalent public database).
  • Loan recipients should provide hard copy or PDF reprints of all resulting work for the Seth Eugene Meek Memorial Library.

Terms and Conditions of Field Museum Division of Fishes Database Use

© 2011 by The Field Museum, All Rights Reserved.

By accessing The Field Museum’s Division of Fishes Databases, you agree to the following terms and conditions:

  • The Field Museum does not charge for information from our collections, with the stipulation that The Field Museum is clearly identified as the source of the data in publications, and we also request copies or reprints of publications that are based on our collections and/or collection data.
  • All provided data are for nonprofit, educational, and personal use of students, scholars, and the public only. Any commercial use or publication by printed or electronic media is strictly prohibited without the express written permission of The Field Museum and any other institution or sponsor that may have any interest in the database. The data are not to be repackaged or sold in any form by anyone.
  • Although every effort has been made to provide accurate data, the databases are provided as is without express or implied warranty, including the implied warranty of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose. The User accepts the responsibility of verifying the complete data, including provenance, taxonomic, and ecological information, in consultation with the curatorial staff and/or by inspection of the specimens and the collection catalogue.
  • The Field Museum shall not be liable for any damages suffered by the users of the database or the software, programming, and other documentation found on these web pages or in these databases.
Associated Files: